Maryland Is Criminalizing Poverty

April 09, 2018

More than 1.5 million Marylanders – nearly one in four – have a criminal record. Having a criminal record, even for the smallest infraction, makes it difficult to find stable jobs, housing, education and other support.

After the federal investigation of the Baltimore police department’s handling of Freddie Gray’s death,  the Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF) wanted to break the cycle. Studying the impact of incarceration on low-income families, JOTF found that many Maryland laws and policies unnecessarily penalize the poor.

In February 2018, JOTF released its findings and recommendations for reform in its report, The Criminalization of Poverty: How to break the cycle through policy reform in Maryland. The Hatcher Group worked with JOTF to edit and design the report, as well as create one-pagers to make the information in the 104-page report more accessible to policy makers and advocates. JOTF’s Executive Director Caryn York discussed the report on WYPR’s On the Record.

Many of the report’s recommendations anchored JOTF’s priorities during Maryland’s 2018 legislative session, including the Maryland Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act of 2018 and legislation that aimed to eliminate de facto debtors’ prisons.

In March, JOTF hosted a forum on The Criminalization of Poverty in Annapolis, featuring best-selling author Wes Moore, legislators and community advocates. Hatcher promoted the event on social media, live tweeting and reaching out to the media. More than 50 policy makers and advocates attended. The forum received coverage in the Frederick News-Post and the Washington Informer. And, Caryn York was quoted in the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the Comprehensive Crime Bill of 2018.