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 and

For more information, contact Marie Yeager at 717-817-3333 or

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 and


“Mind Blowing Because I’m a Kid”

This was reblogged from SolitaryWatch.

The following comes from Joe (pseudonym), a minor who has been incarcerated since last summer, held in solitary confinement for over six months. In his letter to Solitary Watch, he describes his life on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a jail where he has no access to any rehabilitation or other programs, classes or church. He recounts in detail in his letter the conditions to which he is exposed on a daily basis; the jail is windowless, without sunlight or fresh air. Joe talks about a “waiver,” by which, in this case, he means going before a judge, who, considering his age, will order he be treated as a minor.

Following Joe’s letter is an “inventory of grievances” he prepared regarding the conditions he endures. His list states that, in this jail, which he describes as hot and filthy, he is on some days denied his hour out, refused any sort of mental health services, and is provided with no opportunities for outside recreation. He writes, ”Experiences like this, I promise you, I am never locking up an animal or anything living in a box, tank, or cage.” –Lisa Dawson

Waking up almost every day at around 2 or 3 am, the first thing I see is the wall my bed is connected to. When I see this, I sigh and say, “I’m still here.” Another day, is the only way I can put this without actually trying to calculate my last days. Oh, by the way, it’s 23/1 lockdown where I am housed. That’s the best they have for juveniles. I’ve been on lockdown for 7-1/2 months and counting. How do I do it? The strength of my almighty Father God, the support from my loved ones, and the determination to become something great. I can help other kids in my position.

I don’t get any programs, school classes, or church, because I’m 17. Crazy, right? Well if you think that’s crazy, check this out: the location in the jail I am housed in, there’s no sunlight, no windows, no fresh air, and no outside rec. The only times I get to see the sun is on court dates (for about 10 minutes, altogether).
It’s funny, because a lot of adults, grown men, who come in and out of jail/prison ask me, a 17 year old kid, how I stay sane without my natural resources and on lockdown. “It is what it is,” is usually what I tell them.

Every day I’m in here, I try to plan my hour out of the cell: who am I going to call, how long will the call be, how long can I walk around, and how long will my shower take. Even when I get back to my cell, I plan: how long should I read this book, how long should I study the books a friend gave me, how long should I spend writing my life stories, how long will I draw, etc. If you try to read all day, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because once you’ve finished the book(s), you have absolutely nothing to keep you occupied, and you slowly lose your mind. Many people would say sleep, ha! You can only sleep so much, and if you do sleep all day, the next day is going to be a long 23 hours for you.

It’s amazing how the jail is getting away with this. Mind blowing, really, because I’m a kid, surviving without my daily needs ever day, while some adults can’t even do this for one week.

Read the rest here.

Isolated confinement [Editorial]

This comes from the Baltimore Sun, March 31, 2014:

Our view: Maryland claims it does not use solitary confinement to discipline inmates, but isolating convicts alone or with another inmate in the same cell for protracted periods amounts to the same thing

March 31, 2014
In January, Rick Raemisch was brought shackled and handcuffed to a state penitentiary in Colorado and deposited in a 13-by-17-foot cell with nothing in it except a bed, toilet and sink screwed to the floor. His restraints were removed, the door slammed shut behind him and then he was alone.
Mr. Raemisch had committed no crime. He was, in fact, the recently appointed head of Colorado’s corrections department, and as he later wrote in a New York Times op-ed, he hoped that by putting himself in an inmate’s place he might get “a better sense of what solitary confinement was like, and what it did to the prisoners who were housed there, sometimes for years.” For the next 20 hours, his life was hell.
The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that at any given time in the U.S. there are least 20,000 inmates, and possibly more, in solitary confinement — a cruel form of extreme punishment that isolates some prisoners from any human contact for months, years or even decades, and that the United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned as torture by another name. The American Psychiatric Association calls for banning the practice beyond 30 days because of the damage prolonged sensory deprivation and lack of stimulation cause to inmates’ brains, which is similar to that seen in victims of other forms of traumatic brain injury.
In Maryland, corrections officials deny using solitary confinement to discipline unruly or troublesome prisoners. But the techniques it uses to control inmates amount to virtually the same thing — the polite term for the practice is “segregation.” Moreover, while other states are moving to ban or limit the practice of isolating prisoners for prolonged periods — either alone or with another inmate in the same cell — Maryland has resisted acknowledging it has a problem or collecting the kind of data that would indicate its scope and impact.

In Maryland, youth offenders get no second chances

Reblogged from: SF Bay View, Nov. 1, 2013
by Gary Cooper
I came to prison at the age of 14 charged with two first degree attempted murders 12 years ago to serve an original 20-year sentence. I inevitably received an additional seven and a half years for a framed second degree assault on staff and possession of a concealed weapon, bringing my sentence to 27½ years. It’s the ingenious design of prison to focus more on profit and perpetual imprisonment through antagonizing and framing inmates than on rehabilitation, human rights and community development.
prison isolation

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture cites North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, as notorious for its treatment of prisoners whose mental health is threatened by long term solitary confinement.

We get no second chances. African American youth like myself grew up in East Baltimore, never hearing about the tortuous prison structure, George Jackson, Angela Davis or Kwame Toure. We only heard about being a thug, not the consequences and reality that once you commit a crime, the sentencing cap is 30 to life with a plea bargain for 20-25 years.

Even if you shot a stick-up man once in the back for robbing you of someone else’s heroin and money or the rusty gun you found running the alleyways of the inner city accidentally discharged while you tussled over possession of it with a co-defendant, shooting a White woman once in the buttocks – both scenarios transpired in my case – you still get no second chances.
In 2011 the parole commissioner said that my crimes were too violent for me to be released back into society for a second chance. I did my sentence wrong, focusing more on introspective clarity and knowledge to have something on my mind so as not to come back to prison when I should’ve only been focusing on being subservient to the administration who come to work daily with an “us against them” mentality.
Because I didn’t learn that I have no win and didn’t allow myself to be dehumanized and castrated as a man, I am not ready to be back with my family because I have no right to be upset at the criminality of law enforcement. Just look at all that I have probably done wrong.

It’s the ingenious design of prison to focus more on profit and perpetual imprisonment through antagonizing and framing inmates than on rehabilitation, human rights and community development.

I am currently housed in what I believe to be one of the most racist and tortuous institutions in the country, the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. This is the institution where they denied me parole, the institution where I was pusillanimously attacked by the administration and two correctional officers, Sgt. B. Bowman and Officer S. Lease, the institution where my many stresses all come down on me and where, though I hate to admit it, I had a mental breakdown.
My grandmother died in October 2011, but I didn’t receive notice until 30 days later and was denied a grieving call by the institutional chaplain because he forgot my mother’s message on his answering service a month prior and by the time the notice reached me through mail the matter was long overdue. Reality set in that all the knowledge I learned, the changes I made – it was all worth nothing.

I am currently housed in what I believe to be one of the most racist and tortuous institutions in the country, the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland.

I’m going to be trapped in prison for the next 16 years and probably lose my mother as well as my only supporters because these demonic, racist correctional officers overshadowed my true essence within my case file out of pure hatred and malice. I couldn’t eat, sleep or move. I waited for death to take me.
There is no politically conscious support in Maryland inside or out, so the worst thing I could’ve done was make changes and dream while in prison, because that’s when life gets miserable and reality sets in.
On June 24, 2012, they placed me on suicide watch in a concealed cell where they are notorious for attacking inmates. I knew my date. The wolf was finally defenseless and out his mind. They came in at 7:00 in the morning and instructed me to wake up and lie on the floor to be handcuffed, then to shower and see someone.
Once I complied, I was immediately hit in my face with a blast of strong mace. Then they put the mace can in between my buttocks (up my butt!) and blasted me with mace again.
They repeated that motion all the while kicking me in my ribs. Then they dragged me out of the cell completely naked, punched me in my face around the medical station, then handcuffed and shackled me to a loop that they call the “D-ring,” putting me on public display for two hours burning with mace.
They concocted a story to cover their tracks that I was unresponsive so they came into the cell to check on me and I scooped up an unknown liquid substance with my hands and threw it – the liquid – across the cell, splashing both of the officers in the face. Ha! Where in the laws of physics is that possible?
All I request is what I wrote to Gov. O’Malley of Maryland, to order polygraph tests for myself and the officers on what really happened in that cell, revealing that these sick sadist savages brutalized me beyond belief. I want my freedom through parole, finally being given a second chance with my family, because if I can endure that and control my rage and hatred, then who are the parole commissioners to say that I don’t deserve to be given a second chance?
I am a freelance writer who has written many books, movie scripts, etc. I am hoping to find activists to network with and offer me support with finally getting my books published, exposing the modern day prison industrial complex and its new agendas.

I want my freedom through parole, finally being given a second chance with my family, because if I can endure that and control my rage and hatred, then who are the parole commissioners to say that I don’t deserve to be given a second chance?

I also urge the SHU prisoners and others across the country to stay strong and continue to fight. I know it’s hard, but daily I think about giving up because I’m alone in Maryland, but my desire to be better and to be heard drives me to keep reaching out, even if I have to reach all the way to another coast for help.
Send our brother some love and light: Gary Cooper, 311-499, NBCI, 14100 McMullen Hwy. SW, Cumberland, MD 21502.

Maryland Death Penalty: Lawmakers Approve Measure To Ban Capital Punishment

From Huffington Post:
March 15, 2013

The Maryland General Assembly approved a measure Friday to repeal the state’s death penalty.

The House of Delegates voted 82 to 56 Friday to pass a bill already approved by the Senate, according to the AP. Maryland makes the 18th state to ban capital punishment.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to sign the bill.

The AP reports:

Supporters of repeal argue that capital punishment is costly, error-prone, racially biased and a poor deterrent. Opponents say it’s a necessary tool to punish those who commit the most egregious crimes.

Maryland has five men on death row, though the measure approved Friday makes it clear the governor can commute their sentences to life in prison. The state’s last execution took place in 2005, during the administration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

Anti-Death Penalty Advocate To Visit Md. Lawmakers

From: CBS Baltimore:

March 2, 2012
ANNNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Sister Helen Prejean, an advocate for ending capital punishment, wants Maryland lawmakers to consider outlawing the death penalty.

Prejean, who wrote the book “Dead Man Walking: An Eye Witness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States” is scheduled to meet with lawmakers Friday to encourage them to repeal the law.

Legislation in the General Assembly would repeal Maryland’s capital punishment law and direct funds to improving services for the families of murder victims. A state Senate panel is scheduled to consider the bill next week.

Read the rest here.

Md. weighs allowing inmates’ own clergy at death

From the AP

Maryland is considering becoming one of the few states to allow condemned inmates to choose a clergy member not employed by the state to be in the execution chamber when they die.

Corrections officials must balance the sensitive issues of security during one of the gravest tasks undertaken by the state and religious freedom during a condemned person’s final moments.

The measure is being considered by Maryland legislators at a time when the death penalty is essentially on hold there after a court found that the way the state lethally injected its inmates wasn’t properly approved.

Most of the 35 states with capital punishment allow an inmate to meet with clergy of their choice in the hours before an execution, but the majority of them require spiritual advisers to watch the execution from an adjoining room. Several states, including Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, allow an official prison chaplain to be in the room during the execution.

Maryland based its new proposal on a similar policy Oklahoma put in place in 2004, although officials there have changed their regulations since Maryland learned about them. Oklahoma has not allowed any clergy in the death chamber for two or three years, since an inmate’s religious adviser showed up wearing an ankle-monitoring device because he was on probation, said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

“We had an outside chaplain in there once that created a security issue, so we just decided not to have any chaplains in there,” Massie said, noting that clergy can observe from another room.

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Maryland’s proposal has safeguards, chiefly a requirement that the corrections commissioner must approve the inmate’s choice.

“The security policies in the proposed regulations, we think, will be more than adequate to handle any similar situation,” Binetti said.

Chaplain Gary Friedman, a spokesman for the American Correctional Chaplains Association, recalled intervening on behalf of a Jewish death row inmate in Texas who wanted to arrange for rabbi to be with him in the chamber about 10 years ago. At first, Friedman said, Texas officials were not going to allow a rabbi who worked for the state corrections department to attend, saying the duty had to be performed by an assigned department chaplain.

“We had to go all the way to the governor’s office,” Friedman said, before Texas officials relented in the case of Max Soffar, who is still on death row.

Florida does not allow a chaplain in the execution chamber, but the state does allow an inmate to choose clergy to be among witnesses. The sensitivity of the matter was evident during Martin Grossman’s execution in February. Rabbi Menachem Katz, who had been Grossman’s spiritual adviser for 15 years, was allowed to be with Grossman on the afternoon before his execution. But Katz said he could only be with him as long as non-Jewish chaplains employed by the state were present.

“I felt we needed privacy, and they refused,” Katz said.

Friedman said that’s an example of how prison systems could be more sensitive.

“Sometimes, it’s the nature of the beast that security trumps humanity,” Friedman said.

The proposed change in Maryland was included as part of protocols submitted in May to a legislative panel for review. The administration of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Catholic who opposes the death penalty, proposed the changes reluctantly, after previous attempts to repeal capital punishment failed in the General Assembly.

Maryland’s death penalty has been on hold since December 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled lethal injection protocols weren’t reviewed by the legislative panel as required. It’s unclear when executions could resume in Maryland, where the co-chairs of the legislative panel also oppose capital punishment.

Maryland began allowing a prison chaplain to be in the chamber in 2004, when the state carried out its first death sentence in six years. Randy Watson, assistant correction commissioner, said the change was made after corrections officials studied practices in Oklahoma, where a prison chaplain was allowed in the chamber at the time.

“They just felt that that helped keep the condemned inmate calm, and it did not detract from the process,” Watson said.

Maryland corrections officials decided to propose allowing the inmate to choose the clergy member when the department submitted the new protocols to comply with the 2006 court ruling. Corrections officials no longer saw the need of any restriction, as long as the commissioner approved the person after a background check and the choice didn’t compromise security, Watson said.

A prison chaplain, a Catholic priest, was inside the chamber during the 2004 execution of Steven Oken, who was Jewish. One of two rabbis allowed to be witnesses told reporters just before Oken was put to death that he had met with Oken for about 90 minutes, but the rabbi expressed disappointment that he was not allowed to be by Oken’s side at the very end.

Watson said that while a Jewish chaplain who worked for the state was available, Oken had requested the priest to be present.

Mississippi is one of the few states that allows an inmate to choose up to two clergy members who can be in the execution chamber. Kansas allows an inmate to choose a spiritual adviser to be in the execution chamber, but Kansas has not had an execution since capital punishment was put back on the books there in 1994.

In Texas, a prison chaplain is present in the chamber. The clergyman normally rests a hand on the inmate’s leg to offer comfort and prays while the lethal injection is taking place. A spiritual adviser chosen by the inmate can watch through a window with other witnesses.

But most states do not allow clergy into the execution chamber.

In Virginia, for example, chosen clergy can be with an inmate in a holding cell until the execution, but they can only observe the procedure from a witness booth. Pennsylvania allows clergy to walk with an inmate to the execution chamber before going to the area reserved for witnesses.



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