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It's time to be smarter on crime

This piece originally appeared in the Frederick News Post.


When you lead the world in incarceration rates, no one should take solace in where we rank in righting a wrong. Bragging about reducing an over-incarcerated prison system is akin to Flint, Michigan, bragging about providing clean bottled water. Yet Sen. Hough, in his recent piece “Jealous’ plan not right for Maryland,” is using where Maryland ranks nationally in prison reduction as cover for not recognizing that we can and should do much more.

Sen. Hough touts Maryland’s Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) as the catalyst behind a reduction in the crowded Maryland prison system. What Sen. Hough fails to mention is that the JRA that actually passed was significantly weaker than the original comprehensive recommendations and bipartisan data-driven bill, which would have resulted in meaningful reductions in the prison population and justice system dollars better spent on those communities most impacted by the justice system.

And while tough-on-crime rhetoric is rolled out and weaponized during each election year, Sen. Hough may want to rethink that approach as mounting data show a correlation in increased public safety and prison reduction. Since 2008, 35 states have experienced declines in crime while also cutting their prison populations. Many of those states have sustained reductions in their prison population by reinvesting those savings in communities most impacted by crime. By rethinking how we invest in communities most impacted by the justice system, we can increase public safety in doing so. While the JRA was a good start to reforming a system that disproportionately impacts poor people and people of color, we should be careful to recognize it as the start, not the finish.


This piece originally appeared in the Frederick News Post.
       
    

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