CONTACTS: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Surkiewicz, Homeless Persons Representation Project, 410-685-6589 ext. 12, email@example.com
BALTIMORE, MD - Community and youth groups are offering an alternate plan to promote the safety of Baltimore youth without risking the criminalization and unintended consequences of a greatly expanded curfew proposal now before the Baltimore City Council.
In offering the plan, they are encouraging City leaders to step back, define the specific problems they seek to address, and develop more informed solutions.
"Forcing all Baltimore youth indoors under an expanded set of curfew laws has little to do with making sure that the City is working with communities, families and youth to improve services and programs for youth," said Sonia Kumar, ACLU of Maryland staff attorney. "Because the needs and challenges of young people vary dramatically, the ‘one-size-fits-all' approach of expanding the youth curfew is not an effective way to identify youth in need, reduce delinquency, or connect youth to services."
Ingrid Lofgren, an attorney with the Homeless Persons Representation Project, said that expanding the curfew law will hurt homeless youth. "Instead of criminalizing homeless youth, who have no choice but to be in a public space, we need to invest in resources, like housing and supportive services, that address the root causes of homelessness," Lofgren said.
Moreover, the curfew expansion will not lower youth delinquency or victimization. But it will cause unintended consequences-more negative law enforcement contacts with youth, with the result of further criminalizing Baltimore's young people.
The groups are offering an alternative plan:
- Revise the plan for "youth connection centers" so they are youth-friendly, not associated with law enforcement or curfew violations, and have explicit, intentional policies to avoid unintentionally criminalizing youth.
- Increase the availability of safe activities to engage youth.
- Work with city schools and youth experts to identify target populations and high-impact solutions, including schools, youth outreach programs, family support and acceptance services, drop-in centers, emergency shelter and housing for homeless children, and expanded workforce development and jobs programs for youth.
- More effectively utilize existing authority, including social services, existing curfews, and police.
The positive alternative plan was developed by the ACLU of Maryland, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Youth Empowered Society, and Advocates for Children and Youth. The plan is supported by an expanding coalition, including Community Law in Action, Maryland Disability Law Center, Free State Legal, City Neighbors Foundation, the Inner Harbor Project, and the Public Justice Center.