NY Times Op/Ed Focuses on Justice Issues, Cites New Maryland Laws

A recent New York Times opinion piece by Tina Rosenberg (co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network) discusses a range of justice issues, including prominent mention of the recent justice reforms enacted during Maryland’s 2016 legislative session, and numerous references to Maryland’s justice system and procedures for expungement.

From the Times item:

There’s a word for people who aren’t convicted of a crime: innocent. So why should an arrest record hurt? One reason is ignorance. In Maryland, when prosecutors drop a case, it’s listed as “nolle prosequi.” Do you know what that means? Many employers don’t.

“They don’t understand that a particular charge did not result in conviction,” said Michael Pinard, professor and a director of the Clinical Law Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. “Or they know, but find that this particular charge is offensive — they might look more at the charge than at the result. Others think that if a person has interacted with the criminal justice system, he must have done something wrong.”

…and in further Maryland discussion:

And last week, Gov. Larry Hogan signed the massive Justice Reinvestment Act, a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, which, among many other things, provides drug treatment instead of jail for addicts. It expands expungement to misdemeanor theft and assault convictions.

The move toward expungement and shielding has broad support in Maryland. “I haven’t seen anyone oppose it,” John P. Morrissey, chief judge of the district court of Maryland, said in an interview. “Our challenge is dealing with the uptick in how many we have to process.”

There is more Maryland could do, especially to remove the noxious effects of nonconvictions. The state could, for example, simply stop putting them on Case Search. It could make expunging a nonconviction automatic — the courts take care of it, with no action necessary from the defendant. (New Jersey, among other states, now does this.) Branching out, the state could review occupational licensing: a ban on people holding felony convictions might make sense for child care workers, but not for barbers.

The state already has a “ban the box” rule for government agencies, but the rest of the state could follow Baltimore in applying it to large and medium-size private employers. Twenty-three states have banned the box in hiring by government agencies — almost all of them in the last six years. Eight states apply the prohibition to private employers as well. Many cities, do, too — Baltimore requires employers to wait until a conditional job offer is extended before asking people about criminal histories or requesting criminal records. Earlier this month, President Obama proposed a rule requiring federal agencies do the same.

Read the full NY Times opinion piece: Have You Ever Been Arrested? Check Here

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties