Brown releases anti-crime plan

Program focuses on programs to reduce returns to prison

March 21, 2014|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony G. Brown will propose a plan Friday to cut the number of released inmates who return to prison for new offenses with a variety of programs to ease the transition back to the community,

By releasing his 10-point plan, the lieutenant governor joins Democratic rivals Douglas F. Gansler and Heather R. Mizeur in offering voters a strategy for fighting crime.

Brown said his plan would build on the successes achieved under his political partner, Gov. Martin O'Malley. The lieutenant governor pointed to statistics showing drops in violent crime and recidivism since he and O'Malley took office in 2007.

Brown's plan includes his previously expressed support for the decriminalization of marijuana, which he predicted would produce savings in law enforcement costs that could help finance new programs to reduce recidivism. Unlike Mizeur, Brown's plan does not call for legalization and taxation of the drug.

The total cost of the new, mostly modest programs Brown is proposing comes to $3 million to $3.7 million a year, according to the campaign.

One initiative would enter into incentive-laden contracts with private companies that would be paid only if they achieve their goals in designing programs to keep ex-inmates from returning to prison. Others would create transition teams to help released prisoners succeed in the community, provide transitional housing to freed convicts who otherwise might end up homeless and increased investment in job training and higher education while offenders are incarcerated.

Other proposals are aimed at preventing a criminal record from becoming too high a barrier to future employment. They include a so-called "ban the box" initiative that would bar counties and municipalities from inquiring about criminal history in initial applications for non-school position. It would allow such questions after an interview. Brown is also calling for a procurement preference similar to the state's minority business participation program, for companies that employ ex-offenders.

The plan calls for "shielding" the criminal records of nonviolent offenders from public inspection. Brown's campaign manager, Justin Schall, clarified that Brown wants only some non-violent offenses to be eligible for shielding from prospective employers. Schall said details would have to be worked out with the legislature.

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