Opinion – Invest in children, don't criminalize them

Send a message to the Cambridge City Commissioners and the Mayor and tell them to oppose the child curfew ordinance.


This opinion piece was originally published in the Dorchester Star on December 9, 2022.

Like most municipalities across the country, the City of Cambridge is having a difficult but important conversation on how to protect the children in our community. With the many challenges our society faces today, the need to protect our children has never been greater. However, the current proposal in ordinance 1207, that would establish a pilot curfew for children aged 15 and younger, is the wrong way to address this serious issue that would criminalize children and put them at further risk.

Here at the ACLU of Maryland, we wholly embrace and support efforts to help kids be safe, but curfews have repeatedly been shown to be ineffective in making kids safer or less likely to get in trouble. And we have significant concerns about the breadth of what has been proposed — in our experience, increasing police contacts with children is more likely to entangle them in the criminal legal system than it is to make them safer.

Curfews criminalize children by putting them all under virtual house arrest, which here would be enforced by the Cambridge Police Department. Numerous studies have shown that curfews are more likely to start children on the dangerous path to prison, rather than keep them safe or out of trouble. The curfew would also criminalize parents and accuse them of neglect, which risks separating families by forcing interactions with Department of Social Services instead of offering families support.

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