Groundbreaking report maps incarceration and spending, suggests more effective alternative investments

New Study: Maryland taxpayers spend $288 million a year to incarcerate people from Baltimore City
Groundbreaking report maps incarceration and spending, suggests more effective alternative investments

Washington, DC – According to a new report released today by the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative, Maryland taxpayers are spending $5 million or more to incarcerate people from each of about half of Baltimore’s communities (25 of 55), with total spending of $288 million a year on incarcerating people from Baltimore in Maryland’s prisons.

Based on data recently made available by a new Maryland law, The Right Investment?: Corrections Spending in Baltimore City shows for the first time where people who are incarcerated are from, and how much Maryland taxpayers spend on their incarceration.

The report includes detailed maps and information that can better inform investment decisions in these communities to help solve long-standing challenges and improve public safety.

“Spending $288 million every year to incarcerate people from Baltimore isn’t the right choice for Maryland taxpayers,” said Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.

“This costly investment in incarceration can decrease public safety, and undermine the ability to redirect funds to better long-term solutions that could prevent crime from happening in the first
place, including education, housing, drug treatment and employment opportunities.”

The Right Investment? shows that the 25 Baltimore communities where taxpayers spend $5 million dollars or more on incarceration are also the places that experience disproportionate unemployment, greater reliance on public assistance, higher rates of school absence, higher rates of vacant and abandoned housing, and more addiction challenges.

The 25 communities also experience lower life expectancy, lower rates of educational attainment, and lower incomes than the rest of Baltimore. The Right Investment? illustrates how the money currently spent on incarceration could instead be better invested in treatment, housing, education, and employment services in these communities.

“This report combines never-before analyzed geographic data with key metrics on community
well-being to allow policymakers to make informed choices about how best to allocate precious taxpayer resources,” said Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

The report is particularly timely because legislators in Annapolis are currently considering a range of policy proposals that could significantly affect corrections spending. Pending legislation includes proposed bills to reduce mandatory minimum prison sentences, reduce the barriers to getting a job after having been convicted of a crime, and create a council to look specifically at how to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.

Fortunately, a proposal from 2013 that recommended the state spend a half-billion dollars on a new jail for Baltimore City has not been included in the Governor’s proposed budget, though the plan has
not been explicitly taken off the table.

“This report should lead to a much more informed discussion on how taxpayer money is being
spent in these communities,” said Delegate Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City-41). “Along with passing legislation that we know will help reduce the number of people going to prison, shorten their sentences and reduce criminal justice spending, policymakers and the public need better
tools to help measure whether we are making the right investments in these communities.”

The Right Investment? is a collaborative effort between the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison
Policy Initiative. This report is based on data and information generated by the state of Maryland and research organizations such as the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance.

Funding for the study was provided by the Open Society Institute—Baltimore, and other foundations that support the partners. “I introduced the No Representation Without Population Act to provide better data for redistricting purposes, and I’m now looking forward to using all the data and information generated by this law to directly enlighten future criminal justice policy choices in
Maryland”, said Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel-21), the
lead sponsor of the law in the House of Delegates.

The full report includes specific analyses of each of Baltimore’s 55 communities, as well as additional data about the number and rates of people incarcerated in other Maryland communities. A complete version of The Right Investment? is available at
JusticePolicy.org/TheRightInvestment and PrisonPolicy.org/origin/.

For more information, contact Marie Yeager at 717-817-3333 or
management@rodacreative.com.

The Justice Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to reducing use of incarceration and the justice system by promoting fair and effective policies.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a national organization based in Easthampton, Mass. produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. For more information on the partners’ work and
publications, visit their websites at www.justicepolicy.org and www.prisonpolicy.org.

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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/