The Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD Region
As national campaigns to shed the prisons/jails - in an effort to decarcerate America – gain traction, a shift in policy as well as public opinion will result in criminal justice reform. A decade long mass exodus of women and men back to community is on the horizon. Experts suggest that over 1 million individuals could be released annually to unprepared and under-resourced communities and states nationwide. The cities of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore (as well as some of the outlying counties) face several challenges in smoothing the reentry transition from prison and jail.
The Washington Post notes, “Returning citizens’ are still one of D.C.’s most marginalized and motivated groups. The plight of someone coming back to society from incarceration is still largely misunderstood, and the population is inadequately served, comparatively.” Undoubtedly this impacts the social and economic fabric of the entire region.
The national average shows that 1-in-4 Americans has an arrest and/or conviction record. Washington, DC and Baltimore city both have an above-average rate of formerly incarcerated residents.
According to a 2014 report by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, 60,000 residents of the District have a past conviction, about 8,000 more people are released annually and each year police make about 35,000 arrests. Upon further review we see how race significantly impacts social outcomes and civil rights. Even though African-Americans make up less than 48% of the city’s population, DC Superior Court records (2012) showed over 92% of those sentenced were African-Americans - whose overall rate of incarceration in the nation’s capital is 19 times more than the rate of whites.
- The outlook in Baltimore, unfortunately, is not positive either. Annually one-third of Maryland residents in the state prison are from Baltimore city with 6 neighborhoods in Baltimore receiving nearly half of the 9,448 individuals released from State prison. Taxpayers all across the state of Maryland spend $288M on corrections specifically for the city of Baltimore, because the rate of incarceration among Baltimore city residents is three times the rate statewide. Improving incarceration and reentry outcomes in Baltimore city has statewide implications as a significant number of resources are spent on corrections every year.
The need to invest in public safety, community reintegration, and fair chances at economic well-being for the estimated over 1.5 million area residents throughout the Baltimore-Washington Metro region with an arrest and/or conviction record is urgent. These women and men often face overwhelming barriers to reintegrating back into society. Gainful employment and pathways to self-sufficiency will drive down recidivism rates, limit an over reliance on social safety net programs and contribute to breaking cycles of urban city center poverty.