This month the IAHR Newsletter highlights the action of Gov Youngkin and the Virginia Legislature to amend HB 5148 which denied freedom to over 500 incarcerated people just two weeks prior to their scheduled release.
We are also highlighting two special upcoming programs: the End of Isolation Tour's Production of "The Box" in August in Baltimore and the District and the online debut of the film on solitary, "Torture in Our Name on July 14.
We are also bringing you a special report from the Prison Policy Initiative on where people in Maryland Prisons come from.
Finally, we urge you to support our mid-year appeal by making a donation as soon as possible.
Gov Youngkin Amends HB 5148
In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed HB 5148 that changed the calculation of time served for inmates. Instead of having all inmates serve 85 percent of their sentence, some criminals would receive “good time credit” automatically and only need to serve approximately 60 percent of their sentence.
As the Department of Corrections began examining the data, thousands of criminals were going to be released between July 1, 2022, and August 30, 2022. Some offenders were excluded from earning these credits based on their underlying offense. Many of those being released have been identified by Department of Corrections as being a high-risk of violent recidivism. How the Department made this evaluation has not been made public.
On June 17, the Governor Youngkin's amendment to the HB 5148 earned sentence credit bill was approved by both the House and Senate denying mixed charges eligibility to be included in the earned sentence credit law. This meant that this budget line item would remove an estimated 556 inmates from eligibility for release on July 1. Two weeks before their expected release, 556 were denied their expected freedom from incarceration. This was a cruel and unnecessary act motivated by fear.
A rally is set to protest the action of the Governor and the Legislature for Saturday July 9th From 10am -1pm at 5701 Springfield road Glen Allen, Virginia. This is a moment for the families and advocates to focus on voting power in order to achieve more victories.
End of Isolation Tour will be in Baltimore on August 17 & 18 and in D.C. on August 20 and 21
Many of us are now coming out of isolation, but prisoners are not. For many of us, our fundamental beliefs have shifted during the pandemic, but many policies and structures remain the same. IAHR is a proud supporter of the End of Isolation Tour which uses legislative art to impact unjust policies and structures.
In July, The End of Isolation Tour (EIT) is launching a national, 10-city tour, presented by The Pulitzer Center, to bring immersive, transformative theater to communities across the country on the frontlines of imagining a world without prisons and the torture of solitary confinement. EIT centers around The BOX: a play about solitary confinement written by a survivor in collaboration with other survivors. Nearly half the cast are survivors of incarceration and torture. This tour is how we get these stories into the hands of people who are penning laws. It is how we connect survivors with legislators all across the country.
“Nearly ten years ago, I collected stories from people trapped
in the hellish deep end of prisons across the country.
Now, in a cruel twist of history, there could not be a more powerful
moment to bring these stories back.”
~ Sarah Shourd,
End of Isolation Tour founder, playwright of The BOX, and survivor
We invite you to join us in our support of this powerful project as we prepare for EIT’s tour bus to arrive in Baltimore at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on August 17 and 18 and in D.C. at the Anacostia Playhouse on August 20 and 21.
Torture In Our Name
Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration
June 27, 2022
Today the Prison Policy Initiative and Justice Policy Institute released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Maryland, that gives an in-depth look at where people in Maryland state prisons come from. The report also provides 9 detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Baltimore City and Montgomery County — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics, and others to do their own analysis of how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.
The report shows:
- Every single county — and every legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison;
- No city is harmed by mass incarceration as much as the city of Baltimore. It is home to 9% of the state’s residents, but 40% of people in its state prisons.
- Smaller and traditionally under-resourced Eastern Shore communities are particularly hard hit by mass incarceration; and
- The worst impacts of mass incarceration are often concentrated in specific neighborhoods that are already systematically under-resourced. For example, over a third of the people from the city of Baltimore in state prison come from just 10 of the cities 55 neighborhoods.
Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Maryland state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract, and other areas.
The data show the counties with the highest state prison incarceration rates are Wicomico, Dorchester, and Somerset, all with incarceration rates greater than 500 people in state prison per 100,000 residents. For comparison, Montgomery County has the lowest prison incarceration rate, at 61 people in state prison per 100,000 residents, roughly 10 times lower than the highest counties.
“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”
A previous analysis from the Prison Policy Initiative and Justice Policy Institute showed a strong correlation between high rates of incarceration in Maryland and high unemployment rates, long commute times, low household incomes, decreased life expectancy, and other markers of low community well-being.
The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2010 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years. Maryland was the first state in the nation to end the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gave disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. Since then, more than a dozen states and 200 local governments have taken steps to end the practices. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.
End Solitary: Support IAHR
Momentum is building for Interfaith Action for Human Rights’ campaign to end torture in our region’s prisons and jails. Increasingly bold voices are being raised in our media, our places of worship, and our legislatures demanding change. As a result, the General Assembly in both Maryland and Virginia passed IAHR-initiated legislation in 2022 that brings us closer to ending inhumane solitary confinement. We and our allies have again proven that citizen action can make a critical difference in ensuring human rights!
But the more than 100,000 incarcerated people in our region need us to finish this fight and continue opposing all the many unconscionable abuses in our region’s prisons. I hope that you will consider making a generous gift to help us sustain our momentum. Whatever the amount of your gift, we deeply appreciate your support.
Video edited by IAHR vice-chair Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass
Ending systemic abuses is not enough. IAHR will intensify its focus in the coming year on building support for transforming the penal systems in our region from their current cruelty and futility to a focus on rehabilitation and recovery. Nearly 250 IAHR Pen Pal volunteers will continue to correspond with DC residents imprisoned in federal institutions thousands of miles from home providing, as one incarcerated person put it, “a shining star in my darkness of times.”
We continue to make great progress. The embedded video gives you a taste of the progress we have made over the last seven years.
The need, however, clearly remains. Please help us by making your contribution by clicking here or send your check to Interfaith Action for Human Rights, P.O. Box 55802, Washington, DC 20040.