HOYER

The Enquire-Gazette - - Prince Ge­orge’s County Le­gal No­tices -

and all these cities, you have over 5,000 black males that are dy­ing and no race of peo­ple can ac­cept that. It’s not ac­cept­able.”

One of the is­sues Wil­liams spoke about was po­lice-com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ships which he says needs to be re­paired. He said there is dis­trust around com­mu­ni­ties as po­lice of­fi­cers and cit­i­zens are on edge.

For Wil­liams, he sees a need to bring all stake­hold­ers to­gether to de­velop a more uni­formed strat­egy to get more train­ing or com­mu­nity polic­ing to bridge that gap be­tween law en­force­ment and cit­i­zens.

“As a cit­i­zen, as a fa­ther of three boys and a grand­fa­ther of four boys, I’m very con­cerned about that. We’ve got to pull to­gether all of the stake­hold­ers — com­mu­nity lead­ers, law en­force­ment and cor­rec­tional of­fi­cials and busi­ness com­mu­nity and so­cial sci­en­tists,” said Wil­liams.

Wil­liams also spoke about the mass in­car­cer­a­tion prob­lem. There are too many peo­ple who are be­ing in­car­cer­ated, which stems from leg­is­la­tion that en­hance the penal­ties, manda­tory min­i­mum, or the “three strikes you’re out” kind of sit­u­a­tion, he said.

“These meth­ods of manda­tory min­i­mum, what they’ve done is that it has taken the power away from judges and put it in the hands of pros­e­cu­tors to make a de­ci­sion,” he said. “I sat on the fed­eral bench for 20 years and it was dif­fer­ent for me com­ing from a state sys­tem into a fed­eral sys­tem. Un­der the state sys­tem, state judges had the power as op­posed to the fed­eral judges. In the fed­eral sys­tem, the United States at­tor­ney has the power and they de­ter­mine who has to de­fend what. Es­sen­tially what hap­pens is that peo­ple end up hav­ing to plead guilty or not go to trial be­cause they can­not risk the huge penal­ties and pun­ish­ment that goes along with be­ing found guilty of an of­fense in the fed­eral sys­tem.”

The rec­om­men­da­tion, ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams, is for Con­gress to fix that and give more power to the fed­eral judges — who are con­firmed and ap­pointed by the pres­i­dent — so they can take into con­sid­er­a­tion the unique cir­cum­stances and ex­pe­ri­ences of de­fen­dants be­fore sen­tenc­ing them.

“Peo­ple just don’t know about the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. They don’t have an un­der­stand­ing,” said Wil­liams.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Gov­er­nor’s Of­fice of Crime Con­trol & Pre­ven­tion (GOCCP), GOCCP val­ues ev­i­dence-based poli­cies and prac­tices that in­sti­tute col­lab­o­ra­tion and pro­vide re­sources to achieve sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on crime. The of­fice ex­ists to ed­u­cate, con­nect, and em­power Mary­land’s cit­i­zens and pub­lic safety en­ti­ties through in­no­va­tive fund­ing, strate­gic plan­ning, crime data anal­y­sis, best prac­tices re­search and re­sults-ori­ented tomer ser­vice.

In an ef­fort to im­prove pub­lic safety and con­trol cor­rec­tions costs through crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly es­tab­lished the Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil (JRCC) un­der Se­nate Bill (SB) 602, which was signed into law by Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) last year. The JRCC had to de­velop a frame­work of sen­tenc­ing and cor­rec­tions poli­cies with the goal of safely re­duc­ing the num­ber of in­mates in Mary­land pris­ons, con­trol­ling state spend­ing on pris­ons, and rein­vest­ing those sav­ings into more ef­fec­tive strate­gies to in­crease pub­lic safety and at the same time help non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers from re­turn­ing to prison. SB 602 re­quired the coun­cil to re­port its find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions to Ho­gan and the Gen­eral Assem­bly by Dec. 31, ac­cord­ing to the GOCCP web­site.

“The coun­cil con­sisted of 21 mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing di­verse view­points of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” said Tif­fany Wad­dell, di­rec­tor of fed­eral re­la­tions for Ho­gan’s of­fice. “The coun­cil ex­am­ined 10 years of cor­rec­tion data. Al­though prison ad­mis­sions are down 19 per­cent, 58 per­cent of

cus- prison ad­mis­sions were sen­tenced to non-vi­o­lent crimes [over the last decade]. … Fifty-eight per­cent of those ad­mit­ted to prison were pre­vi­ously on com­mu­nity su­per­vi­sion.”

Wad­dell said the JRCC held sev­eral meet­ings through­out Mary­land with stake­hold­ers — in­clud­ing faith-based groups, civil rights ad­vo­cates, lit­i­ga­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions and lo­cal la­bor unions – to ob­tain rec­om­men­da­tions and ideas on how to make Mary­land a bet­ter, safer place. The coun­cil voted to ap­prove 19 of those rec­om­men­da­tions, taken that they are “pro­jected to avert $247 mil­lion in spend­ing over the next 10 years and safely re­duc­ing the prison pop­u­la­tion by 14 per­cent,” she said.

An­other is­sue that Wad­dell said is closely linked to the JRCC is heroin and opi­oid use, which has more than dou­bled in Mary­land over the last decade. Be­tween 2010 and 2013, cases of heroin-re­lated over­dose deaths in­creased by 95 per­cent with an es­ti­mated one in 10 cit­i­zens hav­ing an ad­dic­tion. Some parts of Mary­land have the high­est capita rate of heroin and opi­oid use in the United States, nearly tripling the num­ber of emer­gency room vis­its since 2010, ac­cord­ing to a fact sheet from the of­fice of Lt. Gov­er­nor Boyd K. Ruther­ford (R).

Wad­dell said the Heroin and Opi­oid Emer­gency Task Force — chaired by Ruther­ford — de­vel­oped a wide range of rec­om­men­da­tions in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing ac­cess to treat­ment and en­hanced qual­ity of care, boost over­dose pre­ven­tion ef­forts, es­ca­late law en­force­ment op­tions, strengthen the reen­try and es­tab­lish al­ter­na­tives for in­car­cer­a­tion, re­port­ing cen­ter pi­lot pro­gram to in­te­grate treat­ment into su­per­vi­sion, pro­mote ed­u­ca­tional tools for youth, par­ents and school of­fi­cials and to im­prove the state sup­port ser­vices pro­gram.

In ad­di­tion, Wad­dell said the Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion has been fo­cused on en­sur­ing the rights of fed­eral crime vic­tims by in­creas­ing im­pact dol­lars from $8 mil­lion to $36 mil­lion. This not only “rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to make sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments with those as­sis­tance ef­forts, but a re­spon­si­bil­ity to do so in a trans­par­ent and ef­fec­tive man­ner” as well, she said.

Mary­land State Del. Erek L. Bar­ron (D-Prince Ge­orge’s) — who is a mem­ber of the JRCC — said the state spends about $1.3 bil­lion an­nu­ally on in­car­cer­a­tion, putting as many as 20,000 peo­ple be­hind bars. Af­ter the JRCC took a “deep dive” into Mary­land’s cor­rec­tions and sen­tenc­ing sys­tem for a pe­riod of six to seven months, the coun­cil found that “our poli­cies don’t match our goals,” he said.

“We say we’re in­ter­ested in re­duc­ing re­cidi­vism and get­ting peo­ple who have be­hav­ioral health prob­lems and drug ad­dic­tion prob­lems help, and yet, we don’t fund those pro­grams. And worse, when some­one needs help, they spend an av­er­age of 167 days wait­ing for that. That’s just com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” said Bar­ron. “So we’re try­ing to re­duce that 167 to 30 or 21 days max.”

When it comes to the 58 per­cent of non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers who are in­car­cer­ated, Bar­ron said they of­ten serve longer sen­tences and have to spend more time wait­ing for pa­role el­i­gi­bil­ity than of­fend­ers who are in­car­cer­ated on vi­o­lent crimes.

“Our rec­om­men­da­tions re­ally would re­ori­ent our sen­tenc­ing and cor­rec­tional poli­cies to match with what our goals are sup­posed to be,” he said. “We’re go­ing from be­ing tough on crime to be­ing smarter on crime. … The bills that we’ve in­tro­duced hope­fully will start cor­rect­ing that is­sue.”

While be­ing tough may be good for the pub­lic’s pro­tec­tion, Hoyer said that’s not al­ways a smart move be­cause it can lead to a neg­a­tive re­sult. That’s not only “the com­plex­ity in try­ing to deal with the pub­lic’s ap­pre­hen­sion, but also ed­u­cat­ing them as to what works in law en­force­ment” from a po­lit­i­cal stand­point, he said.

“We can’t ar­rest our way out of a lot these is­sues,” Anne Arun­del County Po­lice Depart­ment Deputy Chief Pamela Davis said. “Fund­ing for treat­ment pro­grams for men­tal ill­ness is huge for law en­force­ment be­cause ob­vi­ously we’re that first part of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.”

“Men­tal health is a huge chal­lenge to us,” added Prince Ge­orge’s County Sher­iff Melvin C. High. “Many of the peo­ple that we ar­rest have men­tal health is­sues … and we’re the last re­sort for their fam­i­lies to try and get them into a sys­tem.”

Hoyer said crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form starts with in­vest­ing in men­tal health, in­vest­ing in early child­hood and ed­u­ca­tion as well as pro­vid­ing more re­sources to help di­vert peo­ple from crim­i­nal be­hav­ior.

“If you don’t have re­sources to have avail­able or things that peo­ple need to di­vert them from crim­i­nal be­hav­ior or to solve a do­mes­tic prob­lem or men­tal health prob­lem, you shouldn’t be sur­prised that it’s go­ing to get worse,” said Hoyer. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity to change be­hav­ior.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Mary­land State Del. Erek L. Bar­ron, front left, speaks at a crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form roundtable hosted by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer on March 28 at Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Largo. Bar­ron is a mem­ber of the Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil which is the re­sult of Se­nate Bill 602 passed by the Gen­eral Assem­bly and signed into law by Gov. Larry Ho­gan last year.

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