State Senator Nancy Jacobs appeared on the WAMD Morning Show Thursday to discuss her proposed legislation which would impose criminal penalties on those who fail to report child abuse.
Jacobs told Morning Show hosts Maynard Edwards and Cindy Mumby that she is studying similar laws in other states, and focusing on criminal penalties for people who act as part of a plan or scheme to cover up abuse.
The Harford County Republican said that she is working with child advocacy groups and law enforcement in drafting her legislation, noting that a past legislative effort had failed in the Maryland House of Delegates due in part to opposition from trial lawyers.
On other laws that may work in Maryland:
There’s one law in particular that we found from Idaho that I think would handle this type of situation. It’s where the person acted as a part of a plan or scheme, having its object be the prevention of the discovery of abuse or neglect of a child. That one from Idaho looks like it might do part of what we want to do.
On consulting other child advocacy and law enforcement on the legislation:
I think it’s important that before we jump into anything we spend time talking to child advocates as well as other groups…from around the state to be sure we don’t capture innocent people by making this…criminal punishment.
There’s a lot of things that could happen that are extenuating circumstances. So I think before we jump into anything we need a panel of child advocates, law enforcement and prosecutors to be together to discuss what really needs to happen before we do it.
I think sometimes, especially in the system that’s already in place, when a child advocate is talking to a younger who has been abused, if they are immediately required to go and report it, the child could clam up, the child could not tell them anymore, and that could have a chilling effect on the whole situation and getting the person who has perpetrated this. I think there’s a lot of circumstances that need to be discussed by the people who do this best before we jump into anything.
On whether Penn State football should be shut down in the wake of the scandal:
That’s a tough one because the students who are there currently playing football aren’t responsible for what took place. And hindsight is great. My feeling is that man should have been fired right away and should have had his butt hauled to jail. I think we have got to address the cause of the situation and remove that person and get them into a court of law and get that child into counseling. While my gut reaction is yeah, get rid of it all, that could be overkill. The kids that are there now, getting their degrees, working hard, aren’t responsible for what happened. It’s the system that failed them, the individuals that failed to report it, get rid of them.