Progressive Maryland’s Reentry Work Group will host eight virtual candidate’s forums this month for those seeking to represent Prince George’s County.
More specifically, to assess the candidates and their platforms on criminal justice reform pertaining to helping returning citizens, or those who served time in jail and prison.
“There aren’t a lot of services for them. If they don’t have family support, then they become homeless and come out with just the close on their back,” said Capitol Heights resident Alfrieda Hylton, who chairs Progressive’s reentry work group. “When you don’t have a place to stay and not have an address, that hurts in getting a job. That is why we are fighting so hard.”
Each forum will be held Tuesday and Friday. The first one began Friday with candidates running for Maryland lieutenant governor.
The next session will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday with candidates seeking office for state’s attorney, county executive and sheriff.
The other offices include County Council and statewide representatives for the House of Delegates and Senate.
As of Tuesday morning, the state Board of Elections shows 18 candidates filed for state senatorial districts, 39 for the House of Delegates and 35 for seats on the County Council’s 11-member board.
Those interested in listening to the forums can register here.
Some of the services the work group states the county needs for returning citizens include transitional housing, social services, employment training and job opportunities.
Criminal justice reform remains personal for Hylton because her two oldest sons each served 16 years in prison for drug-related offenses.
She said her oldest son, 50, moved to Rochester, New York, and plans to get married next month. He’s still on probation for another 18 months.
Hylton’s other son, 44, completed his probation last year.
“They are doing better now. In their early years, it was a tough transition,” she said. “A lot of the returning citizens go to D.C. because they have more resources, but they want to live in Prince George’s County. The county must do more.”
One service the county provides is a Re-entry Court for those suffering from substance abuse and other related offenses. Individuals must seek court-ordered treatment and enter a program through the county’s Department of Corrections.
They must also participate “in frequent, random and monitored drug testing and intensive case management provided by the case manager and the Health Department.”
In November, the county’s Re-entry Advisory Board released a final report with more than three dozen recommendations such as state and county policies, housing, existing resources, community engagement and delivery of services.
Some of the proposals include:
The document also highlights the need to provide additional services for inmates who need mental health support.
Del. Sheila Ruth (D-Baltimore County) sponsors a state bill that would provide inmates diagnosed with a “serious mental illness” to receive up to 2½ hours outside a cell for structured activities or unstructured recreation.
A public hearing on the legislation will be heard before the House Judiciary Committee on March 8.