I appreciate the editorial reviewing the work of the Maryland General Assembly at the close of its 2019 session (“General Assembly 2019: The pretty good, but… session,” April 9). I was disappointed that you did not comment at all on criminal justice legislation. The fact of the matter is that little criminal justice reform legislation was passed. What was passed was severely revised.
The Baltimore Sun has been a strong advocate to end the abuse of prolonged isolation (solitary confinement or restrictive housing) in state prisons. The legislature failed to pass bills that would have limited the abuse of solitary. One bill would have put a limit on the number of consecutive days in solitary for people with serious mental illness. The other bill would have ended the direct release to the community of incarcerated people from solitary.
In Maryland prisons, people with serious mental illness languish in solitary confinement. Each year, anywhere from 250 to 275 incarcerated people are released directly to the community from solitary. One bill never made it out of the House. The direct release bill was held up at the last minute in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. It is time for Marylanders to realize that solitary confinement undermines the safety and security of prisons as well as public safety.