Ben Jealous Releases Comprehensive Criminal Justice Plan To Improve Public Safety, End Mass Incarceration, Legalize Marijuana, And Save Hundreds Of Millions In Taxpayer Money Through Reducing Maryland’s Prison Population By 30%

Silver Spring, MD — TODAY, Wednesday, April 11, Ben Jealous, Former National President & CEO of the NAACP, released a comprehensive criminal justice plan to improve public safety while helping Maryland to become a national leader in addressing mass incarceration. Jealous’ plan includes many sweeping provisions, including reducing the state’s prison population by 30 percent which would realize taxpayer savings of up to $600 million, ending cash bail, creating a governor’s office focused on helping returning citizens integrate back into society and legalizing marijuana.

The plan also includes expanded investments in programs like Safe Streets and the Capital Area Violence Intervention Program, as well as the establishment of gun courts to help combat gun violence and hold violent repeat offenders accountable.

During Jealous’ leadership of the NAACP, he worked on bipartisan efforts in California, Iowa, Georgia and Texas to shrink prisons, and in Maryland, he was named Marylander of the Year in part due to his successful efforts to abolish the state’s death penalty.

“To achieve a safer Maryland we must begin to bring an end to this era of mass incarceration,” Jealous said. “This means prioritizing the apprehension of violent repeat offenders, diverting those incarcerated non-violent offenders into more effective rehabilitation programs, and ensuring resources are in place to support those who were formerly incarcerated as they seek to re-enter society. The data could not be more clear – we cannot incarcerate our way out of a crime problem.”

In February, Jealous also released Building Trust, a comprehensive police reform plan to address police killings of unarmed civilians and combat police misconduct.

Highlights of Jealous’ plan include:

  • A Community Safety Act for Maryland
    • As governor, Jealous will pass a four-part legislative omnibus patterned off of the Community Safety Act (CSA) New York passed in 2013. This bill will end discriminatory profiling and protect Marylanders against unlawful searches
  • Creating Gun Courts to Combat Gun Violence
    • As governor, Jealous will establish gun courts which will identify strong cases so that high-risk repeat offenders are dealt with quickly. Gun court judges will preside over gun-possession cases from start to finish. This specialized approach helps increase conviction rates by improving case management and the subject matter competence of the personnel involved.
  • Expanding the Capital Area Violence Intervention Program (CAP-VIP)
    • CAP-VIP is a “hospital-based violence intervention program” housed at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Trauma Center which has achieved success in reducing violent recidivism. As governor, Jealous will expand the CAP-VIP model to hospitals around th state, so that every Marylander trapped in a cycle of violence has access to tools that will help them break that cycle.
  • Bringing Roca’s Track Record of Success to Baltimore
    • Roca operates using a four-year intervention model, aimed principally at high-risk young people. It provides intensive services to youth and providing supportive follow up. In 2017, Roca served 854 high-risk young men, 84% of whom did not experience any new arrests after entering the program. As governor, Jealous will support Baltimore City youth by committing to funding Roca for the entirety of his time in office, and if results prove strong, to sequestering funding for Roca in the decades to come.
  • Increased Investment in Safe Streets
    • As governor, Jealous will not require Baltimore City to depend on philanthropic donors in order to provide essential services that improve every resident’s safety.
  • Expanding the Justice Reinvestment Act to Deliver Real Reductions in Incarceration
    • On any given day, there are approximately 33,000 Marylanders being held in prison or jail throughout the state, each inmate costing taxpayers $66,667 to keep in prison. In keeping with attainable precedent from states like Texas and New York, Jealous will reduce Maryland’s prison population by 30%, creating savings of up to $660 million.
  • Ending Cash Bail in Maryland
    • As governor, Jealous will work with legislators and the judiciary to provide our court system cash bail alternatives that drive down the number of Marylanders being held without bond.
  • Improving Pretrial Services that Help Marylanders Comply with the Judicial Process
    • As governor, Jealous will implement a 6-part system recommended by the National Institute of Corrections to reform Maryland’s pretrial services. These include universal screening, validated pretrial risk assessments, and risk-based supervision.
  • Increasing Judicial Diversity & Autonomy in Sentencing
    • As governor, Jealous will increase the diversity of the Maryland bench through his judicial appointments, and fight for sentencing reform that allows judges to tailor sentences on a case-by-case basis.
  • Taking the Politics Out of Parole
    • Maryland is one of the only states that requires the governor to personally approve the parole of any inmate serving a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. Not only does this politicize a process that should be about public safety but it costs Maryland $75 million annually to incarcerate those who may no longer pose a risk to the public but continue to languish in jail As governor, Jealous will follow ACLU recommendations to ensure that parole decisions are made solely by experts.
  • Requiring Judges to Include the Cost-to-State in Each Sentencing Order
    • As governor, Jealous will work to increase the transparency of sentencing costs, so that taxpayers know the cost burden that our legal system creates for the state, without necessarily improving our communities.
  • Creating a State Office of Innocence Protection
    • As governor, Jealous will establish an Innocence Project in Maryland in order to create a genuine, constant opportunity for redress for wrongly convicted inmates.
  • Reducing the Incarceration of Women
    • The rates of past physical, sexual, and emotional abuse suffered by women prisoners, as well as rates of serious mental illness and other mental health issues, and substance abuse and addiction, are disparately high. 85-90% of women currently incarcerated have a history of experiencing domestic and sexual abuse and a 2012 study found that 32% of incarcerated women met the criteria for serious mental illness, double the rate for incarcerated men.
    • As governor, Jealous will expand access to adequate mental health and addiction services by funding community treatment centers as an alternative to incarceration. Jealous will also ensure that a continuum of post-release mental health care is made available and he will specifically pursue sentencing reform that minimizes harm to women and the criminalization of women’s schedules and responsibilities. Too often, women have parole violations such as missing a drug test or scheduled appointment due to their responsibilities to their family.
    • Jealous will also specifically pursue reform that gives judges discretion to reduce sentences in cases where abuse is a significant contributing factor in a crime committed by a domestic abuse survivor, including discretion to sentence women to community-based alternatives to incarceration.
  • Protecting the Dignity of Women during Incarceration
    • As governor, Jealous will work to eliminate gender bias in the assessment of women inmates by implementing and incentivizing policies that reflect relevant research and data. He will also ensure that women have full access to adequate and humane reproductive health services.
  • Adopting DC’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs (ORCA) into a Statewide Program in Maryland
    • ORCA provides a suite of consolidated services that focus on transitioning returning citizens back into their communities. As governor, Jealous will create a statewide ORCA for Maryland’s returning citizens, and their friends and families in their communities. This program will improve long-term outcomes for returning citizens while improving public safety and saving incarceration costs by driving down the rate of recidivism.
  • Turning the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center’s Education and Employment Program into a Statewide Program for Reentry Literacy and Education, that Also Serves Correctional Officers
    • As governor, Jealous will expand proven reentry models like Montgomery County’s pre-release program. A program which worked with 683 participants in 2013, 80% of whom were released with private-sector jobs. This program also reduces the recidivism rate by 40% compared to the national average.
  • Automatic Expungement for Eligible Returning Citizens, Without a Filing Fee
    • For many returning citizens, their criminal records serve as a barrier to subsequent employment and the stability it provides. As governor, Jealous will implement a policy of automatic expungements for all eligible returning citizens, removing filing fees for the expungements in the process.
  • Legalizing Marijuana
    • As governor, Jealous will legalize marijuana and do so with equity in mind. He will work with political leaders like the Legislative Black Caucus and business leaders like the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to strengthen the diversity requirements for licenses in the marijuana industry. Research shows that taxing marijuana could yield upwards of $120 million in revenue for the state.
  • Taking the LEAD on Treating Addiction as an Illness
    • The Law Enforcement Assisted Division in Baltimore City gives those arrested for possessing a small amount of drugs and who had no felony convictions on their record the option of participating in a recovery program. As governor, Jealous will combat addiction throughout Maryland, including by working with local jurisdictions to expand the LEAD program.
  • Expanding Trauma-Informed Care Training Across All Criminal Justice Sectors to Make Maryland a Leader
    • Trauma informed care seeks to implement practices that reduce the use of seclusion, restraints, and coercive practices. As governor, Jealous will invest in training and oversight programs that facilitate this approach for all members of the criminal justice system.
  • De-Linking Victims’ Services from the Criminal Justice System to Increase Utilization
    • Only 13% of victims of serious violent crime receive direct assistance from a victim service agency, and that number falls to 9% when a crime is not reported to police. As governor, Jealous will work with the Office of Victims Services to ensure that victims’ services are safely accessible to those who need them, including by providing avenues outside of law enforcement, and by vigorously pursuing available federal grant funds.
  • Expanding Resources for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and Local Victims’ Emergency Funds
    • As governor, Jealous will increase investment in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and offer supplemental funding to local Victim’s Emergency Funds that experience financial shortages before the year is out.
  • Making Maryland an Innovator in How Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Funds are Deployed to Interrupt the Cycle of Violence
    • VOCA provides funding for victims in the form of compensation for harm and also direct services that help victims recover and get the help they need in the aftermath of a crime. As governor, Jealous will ensure that Maryland take full advantage of the VOCA funds rule change in order to become an innovator in providing victims services to interrupt cycles of crime and violence.
  • Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
    • As governor, Jealous will ensure that DOJ guidelines around identifying and preventing gender bias in law enforcement response are fully implemented by mandating and incentivizing the development by law enforcement agencies in the State of detailed policies that meet the principles.
  • Reform Testing and Handling of Rape Kits
    • Maryland currently has a backlog of 3,700 untested rape kits, in baltimore kits have only been tested in 15% of sexual assault cases. As governor, Jealous will prioritize funds to clear Maryland’s rape kit testing backlog and ensure future kits are submitted and tested immediately, and in every case that this information is tracked and available to victims, law enforcement, and public health professionals.
  • Investing in More Domestic Violence Centers with More Beds for Victims
    • As governor, Jealous will invest not just in fully funding Maryland’s existing domestic violence centers, but in expanding the number of centers around the state.
  • Financial Literacy Programs that Empower Women to Leave Abusive Relationships
    • As governor, Jealous will partner with Purple Purse to make financial literacy programs widely available to women across the state. He will also work with subject matter experts to craft a more comprehensive program that the state can then invest in, in order to ensure that every woman who experiences domestic violence is aware of and has access to the resources she needs to leave the relationship.
  • End Workplace and Campus Sexual Assault
    • As governor, Jealous will ensure that our universities are doing everything they can to create safe environments for victims to report sexual assault, including by eliminating gender bias in investigating reports of sexual assault, striving for the utmost transparency, and conducting prompt and thorough investigations.
  • Minimizing Harm to Sex Workers, and Increasing Penalties for Sex Trafficking of Minors
    • As governor, Jealous will introduce and champion legislation that makes all human trafficking a felony and lowers the mens rea required to convict the trafficker. He will also provide state and local police forces with more funding tabbed explicitly for pursuing sex traffickers across the state.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Ben Jealous on this topic contact