Minutes for General Meeting, November 15, 2017
Baltimore City, Maryland
We convened with about 65 participants at 7 p.m. in the Stony Run Friends Meeting House dining room after a swell potluck dinner. Diamonté Brown was our facilitator.
Diamonté briefly reviewed MAJR history and explained the format for our general meeting, introducing chairs of our Front Door, Behind the Walls, and Back Door workgroups, preliminary to 45 minute breakout sessions for more detailed discussions with those interested in each area.
Phil Caroom, noting that he spoke as a citizen and MAJR member, reviewed Maryland’s Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) and MAJR’s role in it. He also summarized the Front Door workgroup’s recommended 2018 initiatives, noting that only the first two necessarily may involve legislation: 1) re-introducing the 2017 citations bill that overwhelmingly passed in the House, but got stuck in Senate committee; 2) supporting an advocates coalition proposal for pretrial / bail screening and supervision assistance to remedy bail problems, perhaps via the state budget, as well as opposing anticipated negative bills from bail bondsmen; 3) sponsoring a court Rule revision to prevent judges from issuing no-bail arrest warrants for even technical violations of probation (this is already filed); 4) working with other advocates and groups on pretrial diversion for individuals with mental illness; and 5) working with the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association (MCAA), Maryland States’ Attorneys’ Association (MSAA) on survey of needed services for screening and pretrial diversion, and programs to advance these. He invited meeting participants to sign up to “nag-a-warden” or “nag-a-prosecutor” for survey responses.
Vince Greco, Nicole Hansen (of Out for Justice), Lea Green of Maryland CURE, Suzanne O’Hatnick of Interfaith Alliance for Human Rights (IAHR), and John Linton of (MCEEA) summarized the Behind the Walls workgroup’s proposed 2018 initiatives including: 1) renewal of the 2017 bill that passed the House to remove the Governor’s veto power on parole for eligible offenders as to life sentences, joining 47 other U.S. states in this policy; ; 2)supporting revision to Maryland’s overuse of solitary confinement which is approximately two higher than average U.S. rate; 3) increasing Maryland’s resources for prison education and vocational training, now hampered by ineffective screening and low pay for teachers; and 4) IAHR’s pending solitary confinement bill. Lea, Nicole and Vince also spoke about lack of resources for women at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW).
Nicole and Jim Rose summarized Back Door workgroup proposals including: 1) support to override the Governor’s veto of a “ban-the-box on state college applications” bill ; 2) support for expanded expungement laws; and 3) expansion of “certificate of rehabilitation” statute, currently limited to effect on state licensing. Nicole invited participants also to attend the next Out for Justice meeting on the 4th Wednesday of the month (11/22/17), at 4 E. University Parkway (Episcopal Cathedral), Baltimore, Maryland to discuss specific plans to support the BTB override.
After our breakout sessions, the individuals reported on priorities discussed in each group:
FRONT DOOR — Jenny Zito relayed that pretrial / bail issues were that group’s top priority. Other topics discussed included the pending (December) Court Watch report, Community Conferencing and other diversion programs.
BEHIND THE WALLS — Glen Curry reported the group’s discussion of possible plans for support of 1) IAHR’s solitary confinement bill, 2) improvements for prison education so that time served is not just “warehousing,” and 3) Lifers’ parole reform. The group looks forward to well-organized lobbying.
BACK DOOR — Sandy Zeese (who also agreed to act as ongoing coordinator for this workgroup) reported that 13 participants have signed up and a follow-up meeting is planned. Concerns include: 1)Efforts to arrange reentry from inmates’ home communities, 2) successful employment opportunities for returning citizens (MAJR could create a list), 3) expansions to “certificates of rehabilitation,” perhaps including official reference to educational accomplishments. The group also wants to explore Dept. of Juvenile Services reentry systems.
In conclusion, Diamonté and others thanked all participants. We noted that MAJR plans to hold a “Legislative Breakfast” meeting early in the 2018 General Assembly session, although the precise date will need to be selected with our legislative sponsor(s). While speaking time may be limited to a “keynote” speaker and a handful of legislators, MAJR invites other groups to co-sponsor, have side-tables with fact sheets, and talk with legislators about their legis.priorities. Other groups interested are encouraged to contact Phil Caroom of MAJR’s executive committee.
Sign up sheets were completed by many new volunteers. We agreed that the next MAJR general meeting will be held in Baltimore, Maryland TBD on 1/27/18 – 7 pm with the precise location to be determined.
LOST AND FOUND: One pair of women’s black-leather suede, insulated gloves, under a chair mid-room.
—These minutes respectfully submitted. – P.Caroom.