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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Jail postcard-only policies should be ‘returned to sender,’ says new report

Press Release: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/postcards/pressrelease.html

Easthampton, MA — Local jails should think twice before cutting off letters from home, says the research think tank Prison Policy Initiative in a new report, “Return to Sender: Postcard-only Mail Policies in Jail.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 7, 2012
Contact:
Leah Sakala
(413) 527-0845
lsakala@prisonpolicy.org

Easthampton, MA — Local jails should think twice before cutting off letters from home, says the research think tank Prison Policy Initiative in a new report, “Return to Sender: Postcard-only Mail Policies in Jail.”

The report argues that the growing jail trend to ban letters and restrict mail to only postcards deters communication that is essential for keeping people from reoffending after release. “Letters are one of the three main ways that people in jails maintain family ties. Phone calls are outrageously expensive, and limited visiting hours often make letters the only viable way to stay in touch,” said Leah Sakala, the report’s author and a policy analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “The social science research is clear — people in jail need to maintain strong outside ties to keep from coming right back after they’re released.”

Sheriffs often claim that restricting incoming and outgoing mail to postcards will reduce the time it takes to screen for contraband, but, Sakala said, “the public must insist that sheriffs balance vague claims of cost savings against the very expensive risk that individuals whose community ties have been jeopardized by the postcard-only policies will return to jail.”

The report demonstrates, often with examples from successful lawsuits, why postcards are inadequate substitutes for letters. Not only does communication via postcard cost 34 times as much as via letter, but banning envelopes forces people to choose between exposing personal information to anyone who sees the postcard or not communicating at all. “Requiring family members who want to stay in touch to pay extra and expose private information ensures that they are punished, too,” Sakala explained. “The security practices of all state and federal prisons show that correctional facilities can effectively screen mail without resorting to postcard-only policies.”

The report also finds that postcard-only mail rules contradict the best practices outlined by major professional organizations, including the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association.

The postcard-only policy trend began five years ago with controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, and caught on at first among administrators of small county jails. Today, dozens of jails in at least 13 states have instituted postcard-only policies. Most recently, the San Diego County Jail embraced the policy in September, and the Sacramento County Jail is set to enforce its own version on February 10. Also last fall, a prison in New Mexico was poised to be the first state prison to implement a postcard-only restriction, but at the last minute the state Department of Corrections intervened and indefinitely postponed the policy.
A federal trial is currently underway in Oregon to determine if the Columbia County Jail’s postcard-only policy violates the free speech rights of incarcerated people and those who correspond with them. While the trial is ongoing, the judge has already issued a preliminary injunction against the jail’s postcard-only policy.
The report calls for jails with postcard-only policies to rescind them, and calls on state and federal agencies to refuse to contract with facilities that have postcard-only policies.

The report is available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/postcards .

Maryland enacts law to count incarcerated people at their home addresses

From: Prisoners of the Census

by Peter Wagner, April 13, 2010
First-in-nation law will improve fairness and accuracy of the Census data used for redistricting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Peter Wagner, PPI, (413) 527-0845
Tim Rusch, Demos, 212 389-1407
Brenda Wright, Demos, 617 232 5885 ext. 13

April 13, 2010 – Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill ensuring that incarcerated persons will be counted as residents of their home addresses when new state and local legislative districts are drawn in Maryland.

The U.S. Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location. When state and local government bodies use Census counts to draw legislative districts, they unintentionally enhance the weight of a vote cast in districts that contain prisons at the expense of all other districts in the state. Maryland is the first state to pledge to collect the home addresses of incarcerated people and correct the data state-wide.

The new law will help Maryland correct past distortions in representation caused by counting incarcerated persons as residents of prisons, such as the following:

* 18% of the population currently credited to House of Delegates District 2B (near Hagerstown) is actually incarcerated people from other parts of the state. In effect, by using uncorrected Census data to draw legislative districts, the legislature granted every group of 82 residents in this districts as much political influence as 100 residents of every other district.
* In Somerset County, a large prison is 64% of the 1st County Commission District, giving each resident in that district 2.7 times as much influence as residents in other districts. Even more troubling is that by including the prison population as “residents” in county districts, the county has been unable to draw an effective majority-African American district and has had no African-American elected to county government, despite settlement of a vote dilution lawsuit in the 1980s.

The problem is national as well. One legislative district in New York includes 7% prisoners; a legislative district in Texas includes 12% prisoners; and 15% of one Montana district are prisoners imported from other parts of the state. Indeed, the 2010 Census will find five times as many people in prison as it did just three decades ago. To address this problem, eight other states have similar bills pending in the current session or being prepared for reintroduction in the next legislative session: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

“The Maryland legislature has taken a much-needed step to ensure fairness in redistricting and reflect incarcerated populations in a more accurate way. Maryland’s action should pave the way for other states to end the distortions caused by counting incarcerated persons in the wrong place,” said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

“Maryland’s ‘No Representation without Population’ Act will bring the state’s redistricting practices in line with the rules Maryland uses for determining legal residence of incarcerated persons for other purposes. We applaud this common-sense solution to a growing problem of fairness in representation,” said Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos.

The legislation, passed as H.B. 496 and S.B.400, applies only to redistricting and would not affect federal funding distributions.

The Prison Policy Initiative and Demos have a national project to end prison-based gerrymandering, seeking to change how the U.S. Census counts incarcerated people and how states and local governments use prison counts when drawing districts. The two groups provided technical assistance to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland who led this effort.

In addition, Mr. Wagner and Ms. Wright both testified in support of Maryland’s new law at legislative hearings this spring. Their testimony pointed out that HB496/SB400 has precedent in the practice of more than 100 rural counties around the country that currently revise the Census Bureau’s prison counts for internal districting purposes, and in the laws of states such as Kansas that adjust the Census for other purposes.

PPI and Demos long have advocated for the Census Bureau to change its practices so that incarcerated persons would be counted at their home residences on a nationwide basis. While it is too late for that change to be made for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau’s recent decision to accelerate the release of its prison count data so that states can more readily identify prison populations in the Census will be helpful to states such as Maryland that wish to make their own adjustments.

PPI and Demos applaud the lead sponsors of the legislation, Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Senator Catherine Pugh, who deserve special credit for their leadership on this issue. Although both represent legislative districts that contain large prison populations currently counted as part of their districts, both recognized that the issue of fairness and accuracy in statewide redistricting should take precedence over individual concerns. PPI and Demos are also encouraged by the bi-partisan support for the bill including that of Republican Senators J. Lowell Stoltzfus and Donald F. Munson.