2019 Legislative Session
In the 2019 General Assembly Session, UULM-MD continued to work with the Marylanders for Justice Reform (MAJR) and others on several fronts, aimed at addressing all aspects of the criminal justice system.
Our top priority was the need to end Maryland's overuse and misuse of "restrictive housing" in correctional institutions. Restrictive housing is any form of physical separation in which the inmate is placed in a locked room or cell for approximately 22 hours or more out of a 24-hour period. This includes administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation. This is commonly known as "solitary confinement." The UN Rapporteur on Torture, prolonged solitary confinement that is for 14 or more days is a form of psychological torture, and other experts have documented that prolonged solitary confinement is cruel, expensive and ineffective.
The Interfaith Action for Human Rights proposes that legislation be adopted to ensure that prisoner may not be placed in solitary confinement unless:
The prisoner poses an immediate and substantial risk of physical harm to the security of the facility, to himself or herself, or to others that is not the result of a serious mental illness;
All other less-restrictive options to address the risk have been attempted and exhausted;
The prisoner is held in solitary confinement only for the minimum time required to address the risk, and for a period of time that does not compromise his or her mental and physical health of the prisoner.
Facts About Solitary
How many people are in restrictive housing?
Nationally, 4-5% of prisoners are in solitary—Maryland is roughly twice that, 8% of Maryland’s prison population is in solitary1
During 2017, 73% of Maryland’s prison population was placed in restrictive housing at some point.
For how long?
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, there should be an absolute prohibition on restrictive housing in excess of 15 days3 x In Maryland, the average length of stay in restrictive housing is 3 times that, about 45 days!
What about re-entry?
In 2017, 278 persons were released directly to the community.
What about the mentally ill?
According the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the mentally ill should never be put in restrictive housing4 x In 2017, 216 seriously mentally ill inmates were placed in restrictive housing in Maryland.
What about safety?
Prisoners who pose a safety risk can be separated from the general population without being put in restrictive housing.
Measures Introduced in 2019
HB 1002 - Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing - Direct Release - Prohibiting the Commissioner of Corrections from directly releasing an inmate who has been placed in restrictive housing from a facility to the community without providing the inmate a certain transitional process and more than 180 days before release; establishing the requirements of a certain transitional process; prohibiting an inmate from being placed in restrictive housing within a certain period of a release date, under certain circumstances; etc.
HB 1029 - Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing - Limitations (Restrictive Housing Reform Act of 2019) - Requiring the managing official of a correctional facility to ensure that each inmate in restrictive housing receives a certain notice and is provided a certain review process, appeal information, and copies of certain documents, files, and records under certain circumstances; requiring that an inmate be provided with a certain evaluation, techniques, and opportunities prior to placement in restrictive housing; providing for levels of sanctions for certain infractions by an inmate; etc.
HB 1001/SB 774 - Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing - Reporting by Correctional Units and Requirements Relating to Minors - Expanding the entities required to submit a certain report relating to restrictive housing; prohibiting a certain correctional unit from placing a minor in certain restrictive housing unless a certain managing official makes a certain finding; requiring that a minor placed in restrictive housing be provided certain privileges and conditions; requiring a certain managing official or designee to make a record in the file of a minor of the reason a certain privilege or condition is not provided to the minor; etc.
HB 745/SB 809- Correctional Facilities - Restrictive Housing - Pregnant Inmates - Requiring each correctional facility to have a written policy in place regarding the medical care of pregnant inmates that addresses the use of medical isolation or restrictive housing for certain purposes, during pregnancy and during a certain post-pregnancy period; establishing that a pregnant inmate may not be involuntarily placed in certain restrictive housing, with certain exceptions; providing that a certain pregnant inmate may be placed in certain restrictive housing if a certain managing official makes a certain determination.
HB 294/SB 621 - Correctional Services - Diminution Credits - Education - This measure, initiated in 2018 by a member of our Columbia congregation, would award a one-time diminution credit to reduce the term of confinement of an inmate if the inmate successfully obtains an educational certificate, diploma, or degree.
HB 443/SB 121- Inmates - Life Imprisonment - Parole Reform - Establishing that inmates serving a term of life imprisonment may be paroled without the Governor's approval after serving 30 years under certain circumstances.
SB 834 - Public Safety - Law Enforcement Accountability - Civilian Oversight - Adding a certain investigator to the list of individuals who may be considered a certain investigating officer or interrogating officer for purposes of a certain provision of law; prohibiting a record of a certain complaint against a law enforcement officer from being expunged; repealing a requirement that the Civilian Review Board of Baltimore City expunge certain records; etc.
HB 413 - Public Information Act - Personnel and Investigatory Records - Formal Complaints Against Public Employees - Establishing that records related to a formal complaint of job-related misconduct made against a public employee do not constitute personnel records under the Public Information Act; and authorizing a custodian to deny inspection of records of an investigation, a hearing, or a decision by a governmental unit connected with a complaint of job-related misconduct made against a public employee.
SB 838 - Maryland Public Information Act - Personnel Records of Law Enforcement Officers - Inspections by Investigative Agencies - Requiring a custodian of the personnel record of a law enforcement agency on a law enforcement officer to allow inspection of the record by a representative of an agency with the power and jurisdiction to administratively investigate alleged misconduct of the law enforcement officer who is the subject of the record.
Of the many bills that were introduced this past session, only the following were enacted and became settled law. The first was HB 1001/SB 774- Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing - Reporting by Correctional Units and Requirements Relating to Minors, which was signed by Governor Hogan on May 13. The other was SB 809 - Correctional Facilities - Restrictive Housing - Pregnant Inmates which was signed by Governor Hogan on April 30th.