Justice Policy Institute: Baltimore Behind Bars

from the Justice Policy Institute, thanks to a tip from the Real Cost of Prisons Project blog…
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Research highlights the factors and policies that lead to over-incarceration, makes recommendations on how the justice system can be improved.

WASHINGTON DC – The number of people in Baltimore’s overcrowded jail can be reduced – saving millions of state dollars – by changing policing practices, reforming court processes and improving jail and post-jail services, according to a research report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI).
Baltimore Behind Bars: How to Reduce the Jail Population, Save Money and Improve Public Safety details Baltimore’s complex system of city policing practices and court and bail processes that contribute to a high percentage of city residents being detained in the jail, often unnecessarily. The report also finds that the courts are clogged with too many cases, which further contributes to people being held pre-trial for extended periods of time.
“We chose to focus on the Baltimore jail because jails are ripe for reforms that until recently have focused on prisons,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “The Baltimore jail holds the distinction of being among the largest and oldest jails in the country, and it incarcerates the highest percentage of the City’s population when compared to other large jails. In many ways jails are like the canary in the coal mine, with bloated populations being symptomatic of larger systemic problems.”
Baltimore Behind Bars details how more than half of people arrested in Baltimore are locked up in the jail to await trial, with more than half of those in jail not being offered bail. In all, nine out of 10 people in the jail are awaiting trial and have not been found guilty of the current offense – far higher than the national average of two-thirds. Most people are being charged with nonviolent offenses such as drug and property offenses and violations of probation. Additionally, African Americans are overrepresented at the jail, comprising about 66 percent of the general population of Baltimore, but 94 percent of the people in the jail.
The State of Maryland, which owns and operates the jail complex, is currently planning two new jail facilities in Baltimore — one for youth being tried as adults and another for women– at an estimated cost of $280 million. The report notes that while these facilities will be an improvement over aging facilities, they may needlessly increase the number of people incarcerated in the jail. Increasing the number of jail beds, and improving facilities, may create a disincentive to finding effective alternatives to pretrial detention, leading to more people in jail instead of less.
“The idea that arresting and incarcerating more people means less crime is a myth,” noted Nastassia Walsh, research associate at JPI and author of the report. “The last thing Baltimore needs is more jail beds. It is vital to the well-being of the city that the current jail population be reduced and that effective alternatives be considered.”
The report recommends that by implementing effective solutions to reduce the number of people in the current jail, money could be re-directed toward services like education, employment support and treatment. These services should be available for people before they come into contact with the justice system as well as for those re-entering their communities after being released from the jail.
“The need for change is clear,” added Velázquez. “Communities can’t solve social problems by locking up more of their residents. It’s time for all stakeholders to collaborate on solutions.”
“The decision to build more jails in this city without first taking steps to reduce the current jail population is wrong-headed,” added Monique Dixon, Director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program of the Open Society Institute–Baltimore, a private foundation which supported the research that led to the report. “Creating policies to release people appropriately while they are awaiting their trials would not only save money, but also allow Baltimore residents to continue working and supporting their families while their legal matters are resolved. Other states have taken this approach, and Baltimore should too.”
The Justice Policy Institute recommends the following changes, among many recommendations, to improve the pre-trial detention process and reduce the Baltimore jail population:
  • Reform arrest, enforcement, diversion and probation practices: Baltimore police can reduce arrests by giving people citations for minor offenses, and the courts can divert people with mental health and drug treatment needs to public and community-based providers. Changes to the probation system that send fewer people to jail on technical violations would further reduce the number of people in the jail.

  • Expand pretrial release and reform bail practices: The booking process can be streamlined, and a system should be in place for the courts to screen low-risk individuals for pre-trial release. The courts should explore methods of releasing people other than money bail and expand use of the Pretrial Release Supervision Program.

  • Update court processes: Baltimore’s courts should set up a reminder system, currently used successfully in many cities across the country, which remind people of court dates. They should also reduce the time between arrests and court dates and expand their operating hours. Violation of probation cases can be moved faster, with better data collected between the courts and the police, to reduce the number of people being held for this violation.

  • Provide more, and better, re-entry and “no-entry” services: Instead of spending millions of dollars to build more jails, Maryland and Baltimore policy makers should instead focus on saving money by doing what they can to reduce the jail population. The money saved, as well as funding earmarked to build new jails, should be used to fund more front-end services, such as education, employment, treatment and housing, which can help reduce crime and incarceration. Improved re-entry services for those being released can also have a positive impact, including returning of property, timely releases and medications and services.
To read the Executive Summary and the full report of Baltimore Behind Bars CLICK HERE. For additional information, please contact Adam Ratliff at (202) 558-7974 x306 or aratliff@justicepolicy.org. For a more JPI reports on the Baltimore and Maryland criminal justice systems, please visit our website at www.justicepolicy.org.
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to reducing society’s use of incarceration and promoting just and effective social policies.

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Info on Jails in Maryland: http://www.jailnation.com/md/

Racial Disparities in Prison: Remedies

The evidence has long been in that the justice system is inherently a tool of racial, class, and gender oppression. I think we all need to form one of these task forces for our states and figure out how to dismantle it…

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Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Inc.

TASC Public Policy Blog

Archive for the ‘Racial Disparity Prison’ Category

State Lawmakers, Criminal Justice Experts to Scrutinize Racial Impact of Illinois Drug Laws

without comments

Springfield, IL – State legislative and criminal justice leaders gathered in Chicago on Monday to evaluate the impact of Illinois drug laws on minority communities. Members of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission will begin work to determine if current state laws and policies contribute to the disproportionate percentages of minorities in jails and prisons.

The Commission, co-chaired by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D- Chicago) and State Representative Art Turner (D-Chicago), is the outcome of Senate Bill 2476, which passed the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House unanimously last year and became Public Act 095-0995.

Commission members, named in the law or appointed by the Senate and House leaders, will examine the causes and consequences of findings such as these:

  • In Illinois in 2005, whites comprised 66% of the general population, African-Americans 15%. That same year, whites comprised only 28% of the Illinois prison population, and African-Americans 61%.[1]

  • In 2005, African Americans were 9.1 times more likely to be incarcerated in prison or jail in Illinois than whites, ranking Illinois 14th worst in the nation, and well above the national average of 5.6 times more likely.[2]

  • From 1990 to 2000, the number of African Americans admitted to prison in Illinois for drug offenses grew six-fold from 1,421 to 9,088. In contrast, the number of whites admitted to prison for drug offenses remained relatively stable.[3]

  • The proportion of African Americans arrested for drug offenses in Illinois increased steadily from 1983 to 1992, from 46% to 82% of those arrested for such crimes. The proportions of whites arrested decreased steadily during those years, from 41% to 11%.[4]

These significant disparities exist despite the fact that rates of illicit drug use vary relatively little by ethnicity. The just-released 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows rates of past month illicit drug use among persons 12 or older to be 10.1% among African Americans, 8.2% for whites, and 6.2% for Latinos.

“These incarceration trends are disturbing and we need to remedy them,” says Senator Hunter, who co-sponsored the legislation creating the Commission. “When rates of drug use among minorities are relatively similar, but rates of incarceration are wildly disproportionate, we need to understand why that is happening and what we can do about it.”

According to a 2008 report by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC, the disparities in incarceration trends relate in part to changes in the drug laws in the late 1980s. Between 1986 and 1991, the number of African Americans incarcerated for drug crimes rose four times as fast as the number of whites.

No legislature sets out to make a law that disproportionately imprisons a particular racial community, but I believe our laws here in Illinois do just that,” says Senator Hunter. “Now we have an opportunity to examine what’s happening and right the wrong.”

The Commission’s work will yield legislative and other policy recommendations designed to address any disproportionate impact found to result from state drug laws and/or their application.

State budget woes have cut funding for alternatives to incarceration, including the statewide TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) program, which places and monitors nonviolent, drug-using offenders in substance abuse treatment as a condition of their probation.

“When the State cuts funding for drug treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and community probation and supervision, the consequences of those cuts are felt by minority communities that are already being affected disproportionately by current drug laws,” says Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC and its Center for Health and Justice, which is assisting the work of the Commission. “We need to be vigilant about not cutting the very programs that divert nonviolent, drug-using offenders out of the justice system and into community-based treatment.”

The Commission’s work will be informed by advisory groups that examine research, policy, and economic impact. The research advisory group comprises researchers from Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and the Illinois Department of Corrections, along with staff researchers and legal and policy consultants from the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. The policy and economic impact advisory groups will be composed of a variety of university and community members with interest and expertise in economics and public policy related to criminal justice.


[1] U.S Census Bureau and Illinois Department of Corrections, 2005 Department Data.

[2] Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity, Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King, Sentencing Project, July 2007.

[3] The Disproportionate Incarceration of African Americans for Drug Crimes: The Illinois Perspective. Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Arthur J. Lurigio and Mary Harkenrider, November 2005.

[4] Ibid.

Written by dbaille

September 21, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Racial Disparities in Prison: Remedies.

The evidence has long been in that the justice system is inherently a tool of racial, class, and gender oppression. I think we all need to form one of these task forces for our states and figure out how to dismantle it…

—————

Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Inc.

TASC Public Policy Blog

Archive for the ‘Racial Disparity Prison’ Category

State Lawmakers, Criminal Justice Experts to Scrutinize Racial Impact of Illinois Drug Laws

without comments

Springfield, IL – State legislative and criminal justice leaders gathered in Chicago on Monday to evaluate the impact of Illinois drug laws on minority communities. Members of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission will begin work to determine if current state laws and policies contribute to the disproportionate percentages of minorities in jails and prisons.

The Commission, co-chaired by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D- Chicago) and State Representative Art Turner (D-Chicago), is the outcome of Senate Bill 2476, which passed the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House unanimously last year and became Public Act 095-0995.

Commission members, named in the law or appointed by the Senate and House leaders, will examine the causes and consequences of findings such as these:

  • In Illinois in 2005, whites comprised 66% of the general population, African-Americans 15%. That same year, whites comprised only 28% of the Illinois prison population, and African-Americans 61%.[1]

  • In 2005, African Americans were 9.1 times more likely to be incarcerated in prison or jail in Illinois than whites, ranking Illinois 14th worst in the nation, and well above the national average of 5.6 times more likely.[2]

  • From 1990 to 2000, the number of African Americans admitted to prison in Illinois for drug offenses grew six-fold from 1,421 to 9,088. In contrast, the number of whites admitted to prison for drug offenses remained relatively stable.[3]

  • The proportion of African Americans arrested for drug offenses in Illinois increased steadily from 1983 to 1992, from 46% to 82% of those arrested for such crimes. The proportions of whites arrested decreased steadily during those years, from 41% to 11%.[4]

These significant disparities exist despite the fact that rates of illicit drug use vary relatively little by ethnicity. The just-released 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows rates of past month illicit drug use among persons 12 or older to be 10.1% among African Americans, 8.2% for whites, and 6.2% for Latinos.

“These incarceration trends are disturbing and we need to remedy them,” says Senator Hunter, who co-sponsored the legislation creating the Commission. “When rates of drug use among minorities are relatively similar, but rates of incarceration are wildly disproportionate, we need to understand why that is happening and what we can do about it.”

According to a 2008 report by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC, the disparities in incarceration trends relate in part to changes in the drug laws in the late 1980s. Between 1986 and 1991, the number of African Americans incarcerated for drug crimes rose four times as fast as the number of whites.

No legislature sets out to make a law that disproportionately imprisons a particular racial community, but I believe our laws here in Illinois do just that,” says Senator Hunter. “Now we have an opportunity to examine what’s happening and right the wrong.”

The Commission’s work will yield legislative and other policy recommendations designed to address any disproportionate impact found to result from state drug laws and/or their application.

State budget woes have cut funding for alternatives to incarceration, including the statewide TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) program, which places and monitors nonviolent, drug-using offenders in substance abuse treatment as a condition of their probation.

“When the State cuts funding for drug treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and community probation and supervision, the consequences of those cuts are felt by minority communities that are already being affected disproportionately by current drug laws,” says Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC and its Center for Health and Justice, which is assisting the work of the Commission. “We need to be vigilant about not cutting the very programs that divert nonviolent, drug-using offenders out of the justice system and into community-based treatment.”

The Commission’s work will be informed by advisory groups that examine research, policy, and economic impact. The research advisory group comprises researchers from Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and the Illinois Department of Corrections, along with staff researchers and legal and policy consultants from the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. The policy and economic impact advisory groups will be composed of a variety of university and community members with interest and expertise in economics and public policy related to criminal justice.


[1] U.S Census Bureau and Illinois Department of Corrections, 2005 Department Data.

[2] Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity, Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King, Sentencing Project, July 2007.

[3] The Disproportionate Incarceration of African Americans for Drug Crimes: The Illinois Perspective. Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Arthur J. Lurigio and Mary Harkenrider, November 2005.

[4] Ibid.

Written by dbaille

September 21, 2009 at 2:51 PM