Criminal Justice Reform
If you would like to join the Criminal Justice Reform Huddle, please email MarylandWISEWomen@gmail.com. For the 2022 legislative session the Criminal Justice Huddle will coordinate with a working group in the Maryland Alliance of Justice Reform to concentrate on how to improve the education system and the juvenile justice system to reduce the flow of young people into prisons. One of the areas we will investigate is ways to increase restorative justice practices in schools to help keep school issues from becoming prison issues.
We will also be advocating for legislation to change the policy in Maryland that allows the police to lie to juveniles in order to get them to confess to crimes. This policy has particularly bad outcomes for children from families living in poverty. See “Five Facts About Police Deception and Youth You Should Know” https://innocenceproject.org/police-deception-lying-interrogations-youth-teenagers/
We plan to support a 2022 bill that will be introduced by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, who is Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. This bill will complete one of the needed police reforms by moving the prosecution of police accused of a wrongful killing into the Attorney General’s Office (the 2021 reforms moved the investigation into the Attorney General’s Office).
One way to reduce the flow of people into prisons is to provide a high quality education and opportunities for good employment to all young people. Thus one of our main focus areas over the past few years was to advocate for the Blueprint For Education that had several components that are known to reduce incarceration: early childhood education, additional support for children living in concentrated poverty, and a strong vocational program in the last two years of high school. The Blueprint was vetoed at the end of the 2020 legislative season by the Governor, and this was overridden in 2021.
In 2021 we worked in support of the police reform bills, coordinating efforts with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR) and the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA). Both these organizations made efforts to let those most affected by policing issues have a voice. The legislature was able to pass a substantial package of bills allowing public release of records of police involved in criminal actions and Attorney General level investigation into killings by policemen, increasing use of body cameras, restricting no-knock warrants, starting early intervention programs for policemen, and restrictions on transfer of military surplus weapons to police.
We also supported a bill to provide a pre-release center for Women in prison so that they could prepare for release with appropriate life-skills and job training. In 2021 legislature was able to override a Governor’s veto.
One of our earliest efforts, in 2017, was to work on reducing the use of cash bail and revealing to the public the influence of political contributions from the powerful cash bail industry.