Research

When More is Less: How a Larger Women’s Jail in Baltimore will Reduce Public Safety and Diminish Resources for Positive Social Investments

Despite declines in the number of women being held in the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC, or “the jail”), the State of Maryland, which operates the jail, is planning a new women’s facility with twice the beds currently being used. While numerous factors can affect the number of people entering and being detained in jail, having excess bed capacity often leads to increased incarceration: a “build it and they will come” phenomena. Policies that increase the jail population often have a lasting effect on communities of color – and in Baltimore City, a disproportionate majority of people arrested and incarcerated are African American. Given that research indicates that increased incarceration does not equal less crime—it actually is the opposite—the negative public safety, economic and community impacts of the planned expansion are not justifiable. Almost none of the women in the jail have been convicted of the offense they were brought in for and should only be held pretrial if there is a clear risk to public safety.

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