Black Cau­cus hosts town hall at Tub­man Vis­i­tor Cen­ter

Times-Record - - Front Page - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com Fol­low Car­o­line/ Dorch­ester Ed­i­tor Dustin Holt on Twit­ter @Dustin_ StarDem.

CHURCH CREEK — The Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus of Mary­land held a town hall Wed­nes­day, Aug. 16, at the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Railroad Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in Church Creek.

The cau­cus is the first of a se­ries of town halls sched­uled around the state. Join­ing the meet­ing from the cau­cus were Del. Sheree Sam­ple-Hughes, D-37AWi­comico; Del. Ch­eryl Glenn, D-45-Bal­ti­more; Del. Dar­ryl Barnes, D-25-Prince Ge­orge’s; Del. Edith Pat­ter­son, D-28-Charles; Del. Pamela Queen, D-14-Mont­gomery; Sen. Will Smith, D20-Mont­gomery; Del. Tawanna Gaines, D-22-Prince Ge­orge’s; and Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, D-43-Bal­ti­more City.

The cau­cus an­swered ques­tions and spoke about its 2017 pri­or­ity agenda which in­cluded the Mary­land His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties Equal­ity Law­suit, med­i­cal cannabis, crim­i­nal jus­tice, health care and ed­u­ca­tion.

“We are work­ing to­gether for a bet­ter com­mu­nity and a bet­ter state,” Sam­pleHughes said. “We want your in­put so we can take that around the state and to An­napo­lis to make Mary­land a bet­ter place for ev­ery­one.”

The Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus will hold a pub­lic hear­ing from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Satur­day, Sept. 30, in the joint hear­ing room in An­napo­lis. For more in­for­ma­tion about the pub­lic hear­ing and the pri­or­ity agenda, visit www. black cau­cusmd.org.

One of the top­ics mem­bers of the Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus of Mary­land dis­cussed dur­ing its town hall was bail bond re­forms.

The cau­cus be­lieves the bail amount a per­son has been re­ceiv­ing, es­pe­cially against African-Amer­i­cans, does not fit the in­frac­tion the per­son is ac­cused of, and can be used to hold some­one in jail when they should be free.

“The pur­pose of bail is to en­sure that some­one shows up to court, not be­cause some­one is a dan­ger,” Smith said. “If you are a dan­ger, you should re­main in­car­cer­ated. That gets in­flated all the time.”

The Mary­land ju­di­cial sys­tem made a rule, which be­gan on July, to make cash bail a last re­sort for in­frac­tions not as­so­ci­ated with peo­ple con­sid­ered a dan­ger to so­ci­ety. The Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus will be study­ing the data to see if the courts are is­sues less bail so a per­son can stay out of jail be­fore their court case, and if there are dis­par­i­ties be­tween dif­fer­ent dis­tricts in the state.

Smith said peo­ple who get in­car­cer­ated for a long pe­riod of time have an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult time re­join­ing so­ci­ety, and an un­fair bail amount can se­verely hurt some­one who can­not pay the amount to be free. He said peo­ple can lose jobs and their fu­ture be­cause a mi­nor in­frac­tion leads to long in­car­cer­a­tion.

“We find peo­ple are more in­car­cer­ated, and not be­cause of the sever­ity of their crime, but the scarcity of their re­sources,” Queen said. “The thought was we need to do some­thing about that. Work­ing with the ju­di­cial sys­tem, we had a court ap­peals rule that ba­si­cally talks about how the ju­di­cial sys­tem should re­spond in cases and make cash bail the last re­sort.”

Glenn said depart­ment of jus­tice re­ports are sick­en­ing for how African-Amer­i­cans have been treated for years with over-in­flated bail amounts. She said the over­in­flated bail amounts is­sued dis­crim­i­nates against mi­nori­ties be­cause mi­nori­ties have lower eco­nomic re­sources, which keeps more mi­nori­ties locked up.

“We wanted to make sure monthly data is pro­vided from the court so we can have de­fin­i­tive in­for­ma­tion to say ei­ther the rule worked or didn’t work,” she said. “If leg­is­la­tion is needed, we won’t hes­i­tate to do that.”

Barnes said the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and ed­u­ca­tion will al­ways be two of the big­gest pri­or­i­ties for the Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus.

“This is a huge concern for the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity,” he said. “When you talk about crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, that is some­thing that al­ways af­fects black peo­ple and brown peo­ple.

“If they put you on home de­ten­tion, you have to get that an­kle mon­i­tor­ing, you have to pay for that,” he said. “I can’t pay for the bail to get out, and they are go­ing to charge me for the an­kle bracelet. Now, I’m just told the an­kle bracelet is tied to a land­line. So most of us now have cell phones, and we don’t have a land­line. So if I don’t have a land­line, I can’t get the an­kle bracelet, so I got to stay in jail.

“This leg­is­la­tion is crit­i­cally im­por­tant that we take our time and think things through me­thod­i­cally,” he said. “We are meet­ing with bail re­view peo­ple. We are meet­ing with lawyers. We are meet­ing with ev­ery­one to en­sure we are mak­ing the best pos­si­ble de­ci­sion from the leg­isla­tive stand­point. I com­mend Del­e­gate Queen and Se­na­tor Smith for what they are do­ing in their re­spec­tive cham­bers.”

Queen said the Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus hopes the new data shows changes in the pro­cesses and at­ti­tudes for how bail is is­sued.

“We wanted to see if the ju­di­cial sys­tem can mon­i­tor and cor­rect them­selves be­fore we have leg­is­la­tion,” she said. “We are go­ing to see what hap­pens this year, and see the data that comes back. We are hop­ing the data shows that we have changed at­ti­tudes based upon the new rules.”

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

The Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus of Mary­land hosts a town hall with East­ern Shore of­fi­cials and res­i­dents at the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Railroad Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in Church Creek on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 16.

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