By Dayvon Love
The Maryland General Assembly has passed legislation over the past several years that signal an acknowledgment of mass incarceration. By offering individuals convicted of felonies the right to vote upon release, the Maryland Second Chance Act, and The Justice Reinvestment Act are examples of pieces of legislation that only make sense as remedies for harm that has been done. Mass incarceration is an assault on the humanity of people of color, particularly people of African descent and a function of the system of White supremacy. The Maryland General Assembly, to its credit, has made incremental steps toward addressing the harm the criminal justice system has done to Black people.
Prison is one of the worst inventions in human history. Modern western societies (and particularly America) have weaponized prison against those who represent the most vulnerable populations. Maryland, according to the Justice Policy Institute, has the highest percentage of Black people incarcerated than any other state in the United States. Black Marylanders have been disproportionately impacted by the violence of the prison system.
LBS has received correspondence from men incarcerated in Maryland who have experienced or know about abuses; we have been instructed not to share publicly, quite frankly, out of safety concerns. For example, in a Jan 28 Baltimore Sun article, examples of correctional officers engaged in excessive violence toward prisoners were described; and the month before the article publication, 25 correctional officers had been indicted for using excessive force against prisoners. In a Dec 10, 2019 Baltimore Sun article, it describes the details of a lawsuit by six former and current prisoners against Maryland State Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The lawsuit noted that Corrections is non-compliant with ADA regulations, which has led to injuries of disabled prisoners. The lawsuit also alleged that prisoners are often threatened when they attempt to file grievances against correctional officers. These are just a couple of examples that have been made public.
Many currently incarcerated individuals also feel they could make a significant contribution to conversations about public safety and how to use their life experience and expertise. The brothers we have spoken with are very concerned about the continued violence that impacts the community and have valuable insight that would be useful in developing a holistic plan to address public safety.
We are urging the Judiciary committees of both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland State Senate to hold a meeting with prisoners to discuss the issues they are facing and to gain their insight on issues related to public safety. We will provide the staff of both committee chairs the information we have received and people they should contact behind the walls.
Dayvon Love is director of public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots Black think tank.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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