Throughout the 2018 MD General Assembly, we will be posting updates from what’s happening in Annapolis in regard to legislation that’s impacting our community.
In February, 2017 the Maryland Court of Appeals historically ruled that defendants can’t be held in jail because they cannot afford bail. This decision took effect in July of 2017 and has been a historic first step in the fight to abolish cash bail and the legal system’s bias against poor and low income people.
Since the decision, there has been an increase in folks being released on recognizance – a kind of bond that allows folks to await their trial with no conditions placed on them by the court. Cash bail to detain people until they go to trial has decreased. This means that the rule change has been effective at ensuring that less people are being detained pre-trial and that less people are having to pay bail in order to do so.
However, there has been an increase in those who are being held without bond. This increase was concerning to us when we first looked at the data. According the Chief Judge Morrissey, the increase is due to the new practice of judges holding defendants they consider dangerous, rather than issuing million dollar bonds for their detention. Instead of giving them an opportunity to get out of jail to await their trial, judges are holding them without bond.
In light of the effectiveness of the rule change and recent exposure of corrupt relationships between members of the legislature and the bail industry, we believe that there will not be a piece of legislation that will attempt to roll back the progress that has been made this session.
We will continue to keep an eye on this throughout the session.
Governor Larry Hogan this week has introduced a package of crime-focused bills that exemplify the “tough on crime” approach to violence in Baltimore. These bills include increased penalties for gang laws, policies that make it more difficult for people to be paroled, and the increase of mandatory minimums – a category of sentencing that automatically requires a person to serve a predefined term for certain offenses.
In recent years, its been widely researched and well documented that policies like Hogan’s crime bills are the kind that led to mass incarceration and the Black community’s overrepresentation in the broken criminal justice system.
His crime bill package will be heard in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.on Tuesday, January 30th. LBS and our other partners will be testifying against these bills.
Our legislative targets for this hearing are Senators Jim Brochin (District 42, Baltimore County) and Bobby Zirkin (District 11, Baltimore County).
If you live in these districts – which include Pikesville, Owings Mills, Towson, Timonium, Hereford, Hunt Valley and Cockeysville areas – please contact us so that we can give you a script to call or email your state senator.
Delegate David Moon (District 20, Montgomery County) will file a bill to put legalization of marijuana on the ballot for voters to decide.
We recently spoke with him and know he agrees that part of the bill should designate tax revenues from legal marijuana sales to the communities most directly impacted by the war on drugs. We will send out information about this bill when we receive more information.
LBS is a part of a newly formed Black-led coalition on education reform that will produce our own recommendations for change concerning education in Baltimore. To focus on developing a community-led vision for quality education, we will delay pushing specific legislative package in the 2018 General Assembly and, instead, ensure that the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) does not push forward any bills besides the Capital Improvement Program.
BEC is a coalition dominated by white led, corporate non-profit organizations that woefully lacks understanding in and operationalization of racial equity. As BEC does not represent that masses of Baltimoreans, we will inform legislators that this newly formed Black-led coalition will be better positioned to speak authoritatively about the educational needs and desires of all communities in our city.