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State’s Attorney  applauds passage after two years of advocacy for this vital legislation to end life sentences for juveniles

Baltimore (April 2, 2021) - Today, the Maryland Legislature passed the Juvenile Restoration Act (JRA), a bill that would end life sentences without parole for juveniles, and would allow courts to reconsider the sentence of juveniles who have spent a minimum of 20 years in prison and have demonstrated that they’re no longer a danger to the public. The legislation was sponsored by Delegate Jazz Lewis(D-24) and Senator Chris West(R-42).

"Prosecutors have historically played a role and contributed to the epidemic of mass incarceration and racial inequity in this country by making excessive sentence recommendations and we have a responsibility to right that wrong. As the lead prosecutor in Baltimore City, our office should have the authority, autonomy and discretion to review and revise sentences that are incompatible with current practices," testified State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. "The status quo is neither just nor sustainable. The JRA does not allow for guaranteed release of these offenders. Rather, it creates a careful process for second chances, where public safety is the paramount deciding factor. We must recognize the mistakes of the past and modernize our approach to incarcerated individuals, particularly those sentenced as juveniles."

This legislative victory is the culmination of two years of advocacy by the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office (SAO) and local partners. The SAO worked with legislators, UMD Attorneys, and the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth to advocate for this vital piece of legislation which brings Maryland in line with 24 other states. In recent years, the Supreme Court has acknowledge that childhood brain development should be taken into account when convicting juvenile offenders, and ruled it unconstitutional to sentence minors to death or mandatory life without parole sentences.

SAO Sentencing Review Unit (SRU) chief, Becky Feldman, also testified in favor of the legislation, as someone who sees firsthand the rehabilitation and unjustified lengthy sentencing of juveniles on a daily basis.

"We are in the midst of a public reckoning with racial justice and mass incarceration in our nation, and also in Maryland. We need to deal with painful truth that we choose incarceration over rehabilitation, and we incarcerate people for much too long. This can change with the JRA’s passage," said Feldman.