- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

ANNAPOLIS A law signed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday changes just one word in the name of the state agency that deals with juvenile crime, but the governor said it signals a major shift in the way the state will deal with young offenders.
Substituting the word "services" for "justice" in the newly named Department of Juvenile Services is symbolic of the administration's plan to focus more attention on the services that juvenile offenders need to help them break the cycle that leads to a life of crime, Mr. Ehrlich said.
"I refer to this group as the savables," the first-term Republican governor said at a ceremony where he signed 147 bills passed by the General Assembly during the legislative session that ended April 7.
Mr. Ehrlich said his administration will focus on education, treatment for abuse of drugs and alcohol, and mental health problems for young offenders when they first get in trouble with the law.
"We're not willing to write them off," he said.
The agency was named the Department of Juvenile Services when it was created in 1966, but it was renamed the Department of Juvenile Justice in 1995 at a time when state officials were putting more emphasis on punishment as a way to deal with young people.
Mr. Ehrlich noted that the trend began when he was a member of the legislature from 1986 through 1993 and violent crime was becoming more prevalent among young criminals.
"That was a sensible response and continues to be a sensible response in some cases," he said.
But to the extent that state policies result in young people winding up in adult prisons, "it's a bad deal for taxpayers."
The bill signed yesterday also will give the state Department of Education control over educational programs at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, a juvenile services institution in Baltimore County.
"Without education, they have no shot, ever," Mr. Ehrlich said.
Kenneth Montague, a former Democratic lawmaker chosen by Mr. Ehrlich to be the juvenile-services secretary, said he had doubts as a member of the House Judiciary Committee about the name change and "the move away from a services model to one that was more like an adult criminal system."
"It was clear the legislature wanted something different. Now we've come full circle," Mr. Montague said. "He [Mr. Ehrlich] is saying that these kids are savable. We shouldn't be giving up on them."
Mr. Ehrlich also signed a bill yesterday that will end a ban on Sunday deer hunting that dates to Colonial times.
The bill is very limited, applying only to private land in 12 rural counties and allowing hunting only twice a year, one Sunday for bow hunters and one during the firearms season.
The Maryland Sportsmen's Association had lobbied for four years to get a Sunday hunting bill passed. The state Department of Natural Resources supported the bill as a way of controlling Maryland's deer population, which is estimated at more than 250,000.
Opponents included organizations representing horse riders, hikers and bikers, who said Sunday is the only time they feel safe venturing into the woods during hunting season.
Mr. Ehrlich drew criticism yesterday from the Fund for Animals, a national animal protection group with headquarters in Silver Spring. "It is ironic that Governor Ehrlich chose Earth Day to sign a bill that threatens all the Maryland citizens who want to enjoy nature and the outdoors on Sundays without fear of being shot," said Michael Markarian, president of the organization.
Also signed by Mr. Ehrlich were bills to increase the maximum fine for identity theft from $5,000 to $25,000 and make it easier for Marylanders to buy wines from out-of-state wineries whose products are not available in retail stores.

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