MACo Supports Justice Reinvestment, Calls on State to Address Local Concerns

On March 2, 2016 MACo Policy Analyst, Natasha Mehu, testified to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in support with amendments for SB 1005, Justice Reinvestment Act.

MACo appreciated the time and effort invested in Maryland’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative that has culminated in this omnibus legislation. While the focus has been on reforming the state’s criminal justice system, counties are very much invested in the success of this initiative and the implementation of the bill.

MACo raised a few concerns in an effort to ensure justice reinvestment is implemented in a manner that allows the state to reach its goals effectively without unintended costs and consequences that may undermine the benefits.

From the MACo testimony,

Reinvestment, particularly into local programs that are expected to provide services and support to individuals who are released or diverted from incarceration as a result of the bill, is crucial to the success of the initiative. Without reinvestment, the current capacity for services – which is already stressed – would not be able to meet the increased need. Counties are concerned the grant fund will not be sufficient.

It is estimated that this bill could generate $247 million in savings for the state over a 10-year period. But this is conditioned on the many pieces of the bill falling into place and performing as expected – it is not guaranteed.

As the grant fund is predicated on “savings,” the money would not be readily available. There will be a gap where local jails and community programs will need funding to comply with the provisions in the bill that will take place immediately.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.