Contact: Evan Serpick
$50,000 grant to Baltimore Action Legal Team (BALT) will support the group’s community education, legal observation and representation, and bail support services to advance police reform and accountability
BALTIMORE-Open Society Institute-Baltimore announced today a $50,000 grant from its Baltimore Justice Fund to the Baltimore Action Legal Team (BALT), a group of Baltimore City lawyers dedicated to using their legal skills to support the Black Lives Matter movement and related groups in Baltimore. The grant, facilitated by fiscal sponsor Associated Black Charities (ABC), will support BALT’s community education, legal observation and representation, and bail support services.
BALT was created in April 2015 when local community organizations joined to support Baltimore residents’ appeal for justice and accountability in the days after the killing of Freddie Gray in police custody. This newly formed coalition, Baltimore United for Change, issued a call to lawyers, legal workers, and activists for support in their endeavors, leading to the formation of BALT. The resulting working group of lawyers operates under guidance from local legal professionals and activists, as well as from the Black Movement-Law Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, and other outside experts. Since April 2015, BALT has trained hundreds of lawyers, law students, and activists in legal observation and jail support.
BALT’s work is more critical now than ever. There are people who were arrested during the initial uprising who are still in need of legal support and representation. As importantly, there are likely to be additional protests and direct actions around pivotal moments that will unfold over the next two to 18 months, including the trial of the six police officers criminally charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the mayoral election, and the response to the recommendations of the ongoing U.S Department of Justice pattern and practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.
Should additional protests accompany these events, the response from the mayor and Baltimore Police Department may be very different from what it was in April 2015, i.e., less accommodating and more aggressive. Thus, it is imperative that BALT be better positioned to help inform what those protests and direct actions look like, as well as support those who choose to participate. Even if we do not witness additional protests and direct actions, the education and training that BALT provides serve as important engagement, organizing and leadership development tools for the larger police reform movement.
This grant will advance the goal of OSI-Baltimore’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program to reduce mass incarceration in Maryland, with a focus on achieving equitable policing and reducing arrests in Baltimore City.
As the only field office for the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an overreliance on incarceration and obstacles that keep youth from succeeding both inside and outside the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore. Before we make a single grant, we analyze the root causes of a problem and examine research and innovative practices aimed at tackling the problem. Because we aim for lasting, sustainable solutions, we engage public and private partners from the start. It is only then, with a clear picture of the problem, that we begin to focus our approach and diligently craft a road map for change. Visit us on our website: http://www.osibaltimore.org/