Criminal Justice and the 2021 Session
As part of a larger effort to address issues of racial justice, we are supporting measures for Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability. As bills are introduced, we will provide bill numbers and links to the actual bill text.
Objectives for 2021:
Override the Governor's Veto on HB 801/SB 684 – This requires an override vote from the bill that past last year. Women receive no support on the transition from prison while men have a program. This is in conflict with our first and second principles and needs to be changed.
An outgrowth of the comprehensive correctional reform bill – Justice Reinvestment Act of 2016 which produced a 2-year study and implementation overhaul of Maryland’s Criminal Justice System. One of its goals is to reduce detention centers population of non-violent offenders charged with minor infractions. It gives an arresting officer the option to either charge the individual OR issue a citation for certain categories of offences. This means fewer citizens will be entered into the correctional system for minor, non-violent offences, reduces the number being housed in jails and reduces potential hardships like loss of jobs for the offender. Priority bill in 2020- passed the House.
Restrictive Housing - Direct Release - HB 131
Would prohibit direct release from solitary to the outside. A transition program will provide needed skills to better prepare the citizen to successfully reestablish back into the community.
Maryland is one of three states in the country that gives the Governor the final review for parole for this sentence.
The bill we support relegates this decision to the appointed parole board as done in many states, thus removing the governor from this responsibility. Currently all other parolees are released via a parole board process except those with a Life with a Parole possibility.
Currently, people serving time in prison are allowed to earn days off their original sentences for good behavior. We are supporting an additional, new type of sentence diminution credits for successful attainment of major educational goals identified in an inmate’s approved treatment plan. When incarcerated people are offered the chance to learn new things, their sense of hope and self-esteem is greatly enhanced.
Police Accountability Measures
The following bills resulted from extensive hearings over the summer and are recommended by our partner organizatons:
Omnibus Bill from Speaker Adrian Jones. Would move the Baltimore Police Department from State to City control; impose requirements for "no-knock" search warrants; require annual reports on an agency's SWAT deployments; increase the frequency of police training that includes implicit bias; require annual mental health and agility assessments; require the use of body-worn cameras; create a use of force policy with criminal penalties for violations; establish an independent investigative agency for use of force incidents which will publish its report after referral to the local State's Attorney; require agencies to use administrative charging committees and trial boards with citizen members; require intervention to prevent or terminate the use of excessive force and reporting of such incidents; and require rendering aid to injured people who are in custody.
Would repeal the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights.
Would establish the crime of "improper use of force by law enforcement officer" with specific criteria for determining if force was necessary and proportional to prevent an imminent threat of physical injury to a person or to effectuate an arrest of a person who the officer has probable cause to believe has committed a criminal offense, taking into consideration the seriousness of the underlying offence. Would require all law enforcement agencies to establish policies (reviewed by the Attorney General) and to post data on use of force incidents. Would also authorize civil suits for use of force by a law enforcement officer.
Would provide that a knowing and willful failure of a police officer to activate a body-worn camera creates a rebuttable presumption that testimony of the police officer is inadmissible in a criminal prosecution relating to the incident that was not recorded.
The Senate has now passed a series of 9 bills capturing all aspects of police accountability, and the House is passing a single bill, HB 670, that does the same. The House and Senate versions are somewhat different and will need to be reconciled, but they are largely in accordance with what advocates want. The Senate Bills include:
SB 71 - Body-Worn Cameras
SB 74 - Employee Assistance Programs and Early Intervention Programs
SB 178 - Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law)
SB 419 - Search Warrants
SB 599 - Surplus Military Equipment
SB 600 - Office of the State Prosecutor - Investigation and Prosecution of Deaths Caused by Police Officers
SB 626 - Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force, Reporting, and Whistleblower Protections
SB 627 - Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights - Repeal and Procedures for Discipline
SB 768 - Baltimore City - Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City
For more information, please contact Criminal Justice Reform Task Force Chair Candy Clark at CriminalJustice@uulmmd.org.