We attended a briefing in Annapolis June 5 hosted by the Maryland Advisory Committee ON Racial Disparities in Maryland Incarceration Rates.

Personally, I would suffice it to say; anyone who doesn’t know that racial disparities exist in the criminal justice system, in Maryland, and the rest of the country is similar to the ostrich when sticking their head in the ground believes that because it cannot see you, you cannot see it. My statement to the commission was if the criminal justice system was a business it would be broke, because there is no return on its investment, and that when I went to prison over forty years ago it was doing the period of Dr. King’s dream, yet I emerge forty years later into what could be considered his nightmare. The problem has existed for some time; it is now time to be talking about solutions. Our attempt to address, and offer a solution to a small part of the problem was to present a few facts on our advocacy.

  According to a report release by the Sentencing Project ‘No Exit’ in 2009 there are over 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., and in a report released by  the JFA institute, ‘Unlocking America’ in 2007 of the 2,022,600 people incarcerated in America; 392.200, were Latino, 731,200 were white, and 899,200 were African Americans. 44.45% of the total population. If Africans Americans make up 13-14% of the total population then this is an overwhelming disproportionate representation of people of color.

Our area of focus is people serving life sentences, and long term incarceration: Of the total number of people serving life sentences in America 66.4% are people of color, for those who were juveniles when sentenced, 77% are youth of color.

In Maryland of the 2,600 people serving life sentences 76% are people of color.

And of the 269 Juveniles serving life sentences, 226 are Africans Americans, of the 19 serving life without parole 15 are people of color 78.9%

Some of these people have been incarcerated 20, 30, and in some cases 40 years or more. The parole commission consistently recommends people for parole, however, because in Maryland, California, and Oklahoma their release require a governor’s approval so they are being denied release. We have advocated, since 1996 to release the governor of this responsibility, finally in 2011 legislatures responded by passing legislation requiring the governor act within 180 days on any recommendation before his office. The governor responded by denying all but two of the 50 cases before his office. This year we advocated for two modest changes: Those persons sentenced when they were juveniles, and those convicted under the felony murder statute. Neither bill passed.

 Race may not necessarily be the cause of their continued incarceration; however, the fact that people of color are overwhelmingly disproportionately represented of this population, should be viewed with mitigating circumstances; i.e. their social, economic, and political status.

While our efforts may not address the overall disproportionate representation of people of colors incarceration, it does address an important segment of this population. We believe that the parole commissioners are highly qualified, and take every precaution when making their decisions, which should be final.

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commented 2013-12-23 14:50:01 -0500 · Flag
Thank you
published this page in Blog 2012-06-13 15:02:00 -0400

A circle enclosing a square, the mandala is the Buddhist graphic symbol of the universe, and represents a mirror of natural cycles.