We can have THAT: Every year, the State of Maryland spends $350 million to incarcerate people from Baltimore, mostly for discredited zero-tolerance offenses.Or we can have THIS: The Public Safety Compact – an agreement between the City of Baltimore and State of Maryland to reduce the number of people in prison – improving public safety and saving millions of tax dollars split 50/50 between the State and City. The City invests its share to support people coming home from prison and to rebuild our communities – good jobs, good schools and opportunities for youth to thrive and succeed.
The Public Safety Compact agreement with the State worked in Baltimore for six years – bringing $3 million back to our city because PSC graduates were released from prison early and remained free at home (only 6.5% of graduates have recidivated — gone back to prison.) But the State cancelled the PSC because of a technicality. The new Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act fixes the problem and the City can get the PSC back.
When the Public Safety Compact is restored, we will have an unprecedented opportunity for a WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN for the state, the city, and our economy.
The State of Maryland spends $800 million each year to operate 23 prisons where 40% of the inmates are from Baltimore City, many convicted of drug offenses under now discredited zero-tolerance policies that cycle citizens in and out of prison. African American residents are disproportionately harmed by the criminal justice systems. The costs in public dollars, over-incarceration, high recidivism, broken families and destroyed communities are enormous.
Systematic, multi-generational and devastating, these policies are increasingly recognized for what they are – the New Jim Crow and structural racism.
While the Safe and Sound Campaign applauds Maryland and nationwide efforts to reduce over-incarceration and reform drug sentencing laws, justice reinvestment that focuses primarily on saving public dollars without reinvesting those dollars in the communities harmed is not justice served.
The solution exists! The Public Safety Compact (PSC) is a proven early-release, recovery and reentry justice reinvestment model that was designed and launched in 2010 by the Safe and Sound Campaign in partnership with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Maryland Parole Commission. The PSC has a six-year track record for reducing unnecessary incarceration, lowering recidivism, saving public dollars, and helping previously incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives.
Designed to safely release eligible inmates years earlier than otherwise possible, the PSC includes behind-the-fence drug treatment and, upon release, enrollment in appropriate treatment within 48 hours; and comprehensive recovery, cognitive, educational and employment services guided by a case worker and supported by a community of PSC participants and graduates. All PSC parolees are supervised by one of five PSC-dedicated parole officers who utilize the Proactive Community Supervision model, an Evidence-Based Practice. PSC graduates shave years off their sentences, stay clean and sober, and rebuild their lives, families and communities.
Launched with $2.3 million in private grants raised by the Safe and Sound Campaign, the PSC is sustained from savings accrued from each PSC participant’s early and successful release. Under the terms – and the genius – of the Compact, the savings pay for the PSC interventions, with any excess savings split between the Safe and Sound Campaign – to reinvest in communities most harmed by over-incarceration – and the State. In other words, funds are diverted away from failed systems and to genuine opportunities for communities long neglected by unjust public policies.
The success is stunning.
While the State of Maryland canceled the Public Safety Compact in October 2015, Opportunity Compacts are included in the comprehensive Justice Reinvestment Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly on April 11, 2016.
Watch PSC Core Action Team Member Antoin Quarles-El talk about the Public Safety Compact
From the Baltimore Sun, watch graduates receive certificates.
Our work is focused on improving conditions for the children, youth and families of Baltimore City, and is explicitly aimed at addressing racial disparities. We are acutely aware of the degree to which these disparities play out in the allocation of resources, access to opportunity and the well being of city residents. When Baltimore invests in Opportunity, we can dismantle the vicious cycle of racism, poverty and disinvestment – rebuilding our city on equal access to opportunities and services so we all have the chance to thrive and succeed.