Who: Members of the People’s Commission to Decriminalize Maryland Working Groups
What: Release of Interim Report
When: May 19, 10:30 a.m.
BALTIMORE, MD – Members of the People’s Commission to Decriminalize Maryland (The People’s Commission) will gather for a community forum to discuss the release of the Commission’s 2021 Interim Report and legislative efforts this session to decriminalize Maryland.
OSI-Baltimore convened the People’s Commission to reduce the disparate impact of the justice system on people who have been historically targeted and marginalized by criminal and juvenile laws based on their race, gender, disability, or socio-economic status. The People’s Commission conducted an examination of the Maryland code and court systems to identify specific ways that laws disproportionately harm historically marginalized groups.
Members worked to envision ways laws can be changed, rewritten, or eliminated altogether to reduce disparate impacts, reduce the prison industrial complex, and improve public health and community safety. As the state of Maryland, and jurisdictions around the nation, grapple with calls to disinvest from law enforcement, it is crucial that we also examine the laws police are tasked with enforcing, and consider how we can find more effective ways to achieve community well-being and safety.
Members are organized into working groups in five priority areas:
Decriminalizing drugs means eliminating criminal and financial penalties associated with possession and use of drugs.
Decriminalizing homelessness means reducing the harm to people who have to live their private lives in public due to being unhoused.
Decriminalizing poverty means eliminating the laws that reinforce cycles of poverty by inflicting criminal-legal sanctions on individuals because of their inability to pay or economic status.
Decriminalizing sex work means eliminating all criminal penalties for prostitution and passing administrative policies to protect those engaged in sex work from exploitation.
Decriminalizing youth means amending and eliminating laws that bring young people—disproportionately youth of color—to the attention of the justice system for behaviors that are typical in adolescence.
Unlike recommendations from other task forces and commissions, these recommendations reflect the voices of those who are most impacted by Maryland’s current criminal and juvenile code. As a result, the Commission believes the recommendations in the report will result in outcomes that will be most impactful for those who are disproportionately marginalized and stigmatized by the criminal-legal system, and lead to a better way of life for all. Now more than ever is the time to take inventory on the effects of Maryland’s system of criminal laws and take action for change.
Legislative victories from the 2021 session include:
HB372/SB420 decriminalizes possession and distribution of drug paraphernalia.
SB023/HB316 requires indigency determinations when requiring home detention in pretrial cases and requires the state to cover monitoring costs for indigent pretrial defendants.
HB238 works to clear the records of returning citizens who were imprisoned for certain misdemeanors that today would not entail a prison sentence, and allows for automatic expungement of offenses that did not lead to conviction.
Repeal of Criminal Code §10-107 “The Unit Rule.” The rule added an unnecessary barrier to expungement for individuals with non-convictions on their record.
HB1187/SB0853 removes youth under 13 from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
The Commission’s 28 organizations have endorsed the interim report.