Baltimore Prosecutor and Criminal Justice Groups Urge Governor To Release Hundreds of Inmates Due To COVID-19

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The Baltimore City State’s Attorney, prominent public health officials, and criminal justice reform groups sent Governor Larry Hogan a detailed set of proposals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 behind prison walls. The letter is signed by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, the ACLU, several leading public health and infectious disease experts from Johns Hopkins University, and more. 

Recent outbreaks in prisons in New York City, where 38 people have contracted the virus, underscore an urgent need for action in Maryland. New Jersey’s county jails are planning on releasing as many as 1,000 people in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

The letter praises the Governor’s leadership but highlights concerns at plans for incarcerated people given that at a March 19 press conference, in response to a question about people who are incarcerated, the Governor said “they’re safer where they are.” The experts in the letter disagree, but were encouraged that Gov. Hogan did say “we’ll consider any proposal” [on people in prison], and therefore drafted the document. 

The proposal notes that an outbreak behind prison walls could have catastrophic implications for the whole state, given that corrections staff and other employees that are free to come and go from jails and prisons and go back to their communities, increasing the chance of the virus spreading. 

The Governor has exhibited steadfast, courageous and decisive leadership in preventing the spread of this COVID-19 during this global crisis; however, the same prevention-focused logic the Governor employed when ordering people to socially distance, work from home, and not gather in groups of more than ten, must also apply to corrections personnel and inmates in prisons and jails,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “The broader community is under threat and a more comprehensive strategy is needed to protect the lives of our community at large.” 

Among other proposals, the document details: 

  • The need for emergency release and relocation for certain at-risk individuals 
  • A request to accelerate certain parole and early release measures 
  • A plan to reduce crowding in prison and begin social distancing 
  • A plan to transition people back to society consistent with public health and public safety 

To read the full letter, click here.

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