The Jessup Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland. Photo by Rachel Baye/WYPR.

Maryland is one of nine states with more than 1,000 prison inmates who are serving time for crimes they committed as children, and one of just four states where that group accounts for at least 6% of the prison population, according to a report released Tuesday by the advocacy group Human Rights For Kids.

Of the 1,132 Maryland inmates incarcerated since childhood, nearly 20% are serving life sentences and another roughly 19% are serving sentences 40 years or longer, according to Tuesday’s report.

Maryland also has one of the largest racial disparities out of the 45 states whose data the group analyzed. More than 90% of the Maryland inmates incarcerated since childhood are people of color, and more than 80% are Black.

During a call with reporters, Human Rights for Kids founder and CEO James Dold said the practice of charging children in adult criminal courts became more prevalent during the 1990s.

“In 1995, a group of criminologists coined the term ‘superpredator’ to describe what they theorized was a new wave of children who were coming of age who are more violent and less remorseful than ever before,” Dold said. “This narrative led to a wave of draconian policies that were rooted in part by racism.”

States reacted by lowering the age at which children could be charged as adults, and in some cases, eliminating children’s access to juvenile courts.

The Human Rights For Kids Report finds that nationwide there are more than 32,000 people incarcerated for crimes they committed as children.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.

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