It’s that time again. Spooky season. But there are new laws taking effect this month that are definitely NOT spooky. And, they’re great news for children in Maryland too! After years of advocacy, the Child Interrogation Protection Act (CIPA) and the Juvenile Justice Reform Law both passed this year. The first just took effect on October 1.
CIPA does three important things:
- Requires that a child has an opportunity to consult with an attorney before police can interrogate them.
- Ensures that parents/guardians will be notified if their child is taken into custody.
- Establishes that if a police officer willfully doesn’t comply with the law’s requirements, any statement made during an interrogation may not be used against the child.
These measures are so vital because children are extremely vulnerable, especially to authority figures. It is very difficult for most children to defend their rights against an adult, and even more difficult against an authority figure. In order to survive, children must depend on adults. In an interrogation room, children are vulnerable to police officers and the drive to satisfy the needs of adults around them for self protection.
That’s why it comes as no surprise that when being interrogated by police, children waive their rights at a shocking rate of 90%. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 36% of exonerees who were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offense had falsely confessed. This is triple the estimated rate of false confessions for all ages.
The Juvenile Justice Reform Act is another reform that went into effect this year, in June. That law:
- Raises the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 13.
- Bans imprisonment of children for technical violations of probation and low-level offenses—except for handgun violations and repeated misdemeanor offenses.
- Removes barriers so that children can move out of the criminal legal system more easily and start repairing their lives and futures.
Children are inherently more vulnerable of getting stuck in the criminal legal system, but Black children are the most vulnerable. Coupled with institutionalized racism and anti-Blackness within the incarceration system, Black children are targeted the most for this dangerous dynamic, which can bring incarceration and a lifetime of consequences at a young age.
According to the 2019 Census data, 77 percent of children behind bars are Black, even though 31.6 percent of children ages 5 to 17 are Black.
We must fix this issue immediately. Black children should and need to be protected under the law. Their voice, rights, and lives matter. That is why the Child Interrogation Protection Act is so important.
We, along with our partners, hope Black children will stop being targeted unfairly by and over represented in our criminal legal system with these new reforms. As we approach the 2023 legislative session, check back in with us to see how you can get involved and create a better future for children in Maryland.
Have a happy Halloween and a month full of crunchy candy and sweet reforms!