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Maryland’s prisons and an unjust justice system

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Post.

In Baltimore last week, 25 corrections officers were indicted on a charge of abusing their authority [“Prison guards, staff charged in violent ‘criminal enterprise’,” Metro, Dec. 4]. We must confront the injustices of our justice system.

Principles of justice call for a system void of bias, but the history of race in the United States ensures this goal remains elusive. The Justice Policy Institute recently released a report analyzing the racial injustices that continue to plague Maryland’s system. More than 70 percent of people in Maryland’s prisons — double the national average — and almost 80 percent of people serving at least 10 years are black.

These are the highest rates in the country, easily eclipsing the next-closest state, Mississippi. These disparities are most pronounced for people serving the longest sentences who were sentenced as emerging adults (18- to 24-year-olds.) Failure to address the needs of emerging adults has exacerbated racial inequities and driven a system that incarcerates people decades beyond any public-safety benefit.

When 25 officers stand accused of 236 criminal counts of violence against people already being punished by serving time sequestered away from their lives and loved ones, we must confront our country’s racial history and implications for the criminal-justice system, including how they manifest in disparities in incarceration.

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Post.



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