Counties Wary of Rigid Correctional Facility Requirements

On February 14, 2023, Associate Policy Director Sarah Sample submitted testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in opposition to HB 0385 – Correctional Services – Restrictive Housing – Limitations (Maryland Mandela Act).

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, SB 0459, though no hearing date has been set as of writing.

HB 0385 imposes rigid—and likely unrealistic—limitations on the placement of incarcerated individuals in restrictive housing or disciplinary segregation. Among other challenges the bill poses for county government, the management prescribed in HB 0385 for the broadly-defined category of “vulnerable individuals” could very well require more space than is feasible in county level correctional facilities. Many jails in Maryland are simply not outfitted to deal with the number of inmates that would qualify for special treatment under the bill’s provisions.

From the MACo Testimony:

No warden takes the decision to use restrictive housing lightly. In a large-scale state-run facility, there may be multiple options to consider in managing difficult inmate cases. However, in county detention centers and jails − frequently orders of magnitude smaller in physical space than state facilities − such options may simply be unavailable due to physical space considerations. HB 385, however, holds both facilities to the same standard.

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