By Hamil R. Harris, Special to the AFRO

In a state where there is a crowded field of Democratic contenders challenging a popular Republican incumbent, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous is calling for sweeping reforms in the criminal justice system.

Jealous, the former President and CEO of the NAACP, said while apprehending violent offenders will be a priority, if he is elected more will be done to rehabilitate non-violent offenders and the victims of crimes.

Ben Jealous speaking to an audience at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Md., where Sen. Cory Booker (left) introduced him and listened. {Photo by Hamil Harris}

Flanked by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Jealous rallied people together at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Maryland on April 11 to talk about his criminal justice plan and other issues.

“Where are we right now?” Jealous asked. “We are in times of darkness when a cloud of darkness hangs over our country, times of division, a President dividing his own people against each other,” he said. “And where should we look for hope?” he asked. “In this room, amongst the people.”

Jealous, who grew up in West Baltimore, told people at the Hyattsville restaurant to look at each other and to appreciate the power of diversity. “Donald Trump doesn’t define the character of this nation, we do.”

Speaking at the rally, Booker said “We have too many of our leaders who are comfortable with the injustices in our community. We need to get leaders in office who are outraged, who are not comfortable, who every single day have a sense of urgency.”

“Maryland has a chance of a new governor to lead America in what it can be,” Booker said. “When I talked to Ben I hear a prescription. He makes common sense.”

According to his plan as governor, Jealous would establish gun courts to go after high-risk repeat offenders, seek cash bail alternatives to cut down the number of people being held without bond and he would increase the diversity of the Maryland bench in terms judicial appointments.

Jealous would also work to decrease the number of women in prison because he states that 85-90% of women currently incarcerated have a history of experiencing domestic and sexual abuse and according to a 2012 study 32% of incarcerated women possibly had  serious mental illness.

Jealous would also like to legalize marijuana, duplicate Montgomery County’s Pre-Release center and in sexual assault cases he wants to clear up the state’s backlog of 3,700 untested rape kits that are part of rape investigations.

Following his speech Jealous was one of the last people to leave the restaurant and instead of talking specifics he shook hands and encouraged people to believe in his candidacy.