Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said mentorship and reentry programs should be prepared for those incarcerated once a sentence gets imposed.
“When people go away, they are still part of our community,” she said. “Even though that person may not physically be in Prince George’s County, we know their connections are likely to be in our county.”
Braveboy joined three other lawmakers who represent Prince George’s during a virtual discussion Monday, Aug. 31.
The discussion, titled “Maryland’s Disproportionate Incarceration of African Americans,” led by Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, People for Change Coalition and PFC Black Chamber had more than 110 people logged on.
One of the main items dealt with a report released in November by the Justice Policy Institute of Northwest that noted Maryland recorded the highest number of Blacks incarcerated in the nation at more than 70 percent of the state’s prison population. Young Black men ages 18 to 24 are incarcerated with the longest prison terms, according to the report.
Olinda Moyd, a defense attorney and member of Maryland Alliance executive board, said Prince George’s receives about 400 returning citizens a year.
That’s why at-large council members Mel Franklin and Calvin Hawkins are working on legislation to create financial incentives for businesses who hire returning citizens.
In addition to getting a bill passed to create an advisory reentry board, he said the county must build a state-of-the-art county jail to replace current one.
“It’s old. It’s outdated. None of us would want any of our family members in a place like that,” he said.
Franklin said he’s contemplating proposed legislation to prohibit discrimination against returning citizens who apply for jobs with felony convictions at least five years old and misdemeanor offenses three years or older. Applicants would not have no other prior offenses.
“That is a big impediment to a lot of our returning citizens staying on a pathway of straight and narrow,” he said. “We encounter many returning citizens who are very qualified to do work in the county but cannot get hired because once their background check is done…then you are knocked out of contention.”
Del. Erek Barron (D-District 25) of Mitchellville said he will continue to try to change state laws that hurt low-income residents.
One bill he sponsored that passed this year in the General Assembly will repeal certain fees in juvenile court proceedings. The law is to go into effect Oct. 1.
“Fines and fees are just insidious throughout the Maryland code and they criminalize you for being poor,” he said.
Meanwhile, Barron’s state delegate colleagues held its third meeting Thursday, Aug. 27 to work on police reform and accountability to transfer into possible legislation when the legislature reconvenes in January.
The virtual discussion took place four days after Jacob Blake, 29, got shot seven times from the back by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wis., more than 30 miles south of Milwaukee.
Police chiefs and sheriffs presented updates on what its departments are doing as use of force training, community policing and positive interactions between students and school resource officers.
These updates didn’t satisfy a few legislators.
“I am disappointed that your recommendations don’t suggest any changes,” said Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the work group. “I hope your group hasn’t completely misread the movement in America. Change is a coming. I can’t say how much, but change is a coming.”
Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro, said he remains concerned about his welfare and members of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus.
“As a Black man in my community, I can’t run. I can’t quit,” he said. “As soon as I walk out the door, I am a target. That is a fact.”
Riverdale Park Police Chief David C. Morris said he respects and understands the community’s angst of police-involved shootings such as George Floyd in Minneapolis.
He said there must also be support against “hateful, despicable and harmful rhetoric” toward police officers.
“We support and defend the most important right of all: free speech,” Morris said. “However, misperception about facts can be extremely dangerous. Law enforcement agencies are finding it hard to recruit and good people are leaving the profession.”