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Rethinking Approaches to Over Incarceration of Black Young Adults in Maryland

November 5, 2019

Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young Black men, sentenced to the longest prison terms, at a rate 25% higher than the next nearest state — Mississippi.  State has incarcerated the highest percentage of people who are Black in the country, more than twice the national average.Punitive sentencing policies and restrictive parole release practices in Maryland have resulted in a deeply racially disproportionate criminal justice system that is acutely impacting those serving the longest prison terms. This is true despite a declining prison population and state leadership in Maryland having undertaken criminal justice reform in recent years. As recently as July 2018, more than 70 percent of Maryland's prison population was black, compared to 31 percent of the state population. The latest data from the Department of Justice show that the proportion of the Maryland prison population that is black is more than double the national average of 32 percent. These disparities are rooted in decades of unbalanced policies that disproportionately over-police under-resourced communities of color, and a criminal justice system focused on punitive sentencing and parole practices.Disparity Most Pronounced Among Emerging Adults, Especially Those with Long SentencesRacial disparities persist despite the fact that the Maryland prison population has declined by 13 percent since 2014, resulting in nearly 2,700 fewer people incarcerated. These inequalities affect the entire population, but are most pronounced among those individuals who were incarcerated as emerging adults (18 to 24 years old) and are serving long prison terms. Nearly eight in 10 people who were sentenced as emerging adults and have served 10 or more years in a Maryland prison are black. This is the highest rate of any state in the country.To be Effective, Solutions Must Focus on the Emerging Adult PopulationTo reverse these racially disparate outcomes—the result of decades of failed policies—Maryland needs to rethink its approach to 18- to 24-year-olds and join a growing number of jurisdictions exploring reforms related to emerging adults. This policy brief will provide perspective on why this population is unique and reforms are critical to improving outcomes in the justice system. Going forward, Maryland's leadership can look toward examples of successful, evidence-based, and promising alternatives in other jurisdictions that can reduce the impact on emerging adults, racial disparities, and criminal justice involvement.What do we mean by "emerging adults"? The United States justice system is divided into two separate entities: the adult criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system. With the creation of the juvenile court in 1899, the vast majority of youth under the age of 18 are served in the juvenile system. But the choice of 18 as the cutoff age is arbitrary and subject to specific state statutes. For example, in four states, 17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted and sentenced as an adult. However, most states have chosen 18 as the age of adulthood. Some states, such as New York and North Carolina, have recently taken steps to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18 years old.The reason this age threshold matters is because the juvenile justice system's underlying philosophy differs radically from that of the adult system. The juvenile justice system was explicitly developed as an alternative to the adult system, which is primarily focused on punishment. The juvenile system is based on an understanding that children have a less developed sense of right and wrong, reduced impulse control, and, as such, a different level of culpability for their actions. The juvenile system is not focused on absolving children of responsibility for their actions. However, it offers education, personal development, and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Public Benefits and Community Colleges: Lessons from the Benefits Access for College Completion Evaluation Report-in-Brief

November 19, 2014

The Benefits Access for College Completion demonstration (BACC) represented a collaborative multi-year investment from several philanthropic organizations to demonstrate how student supports from public human services programs could help address the college completion agenda. The idea fueling BACC was that existing financial aid programs are insufficient, and that high levels of unmet need lead to excessive work, poor grades, and dropping out of college. The underlying assumption for BACC was that, if students received additional financial and nonacademic supports through public benefits programs in addition to financial aid, their personal lives would become more stable, and they would make more progress toward their postsecondary educational goals.BACC supported seven community colleges in six states over 2.5 years to develop and implement benefits access services on their campuses, with the goals of increasing the numbers of eligible students who received public benefits, and, thus, subsequently improving academic progress toward a postsecondary credential. Our evaluation focused on five of these colleges – representing different college sizes and percentages of students that might be eligible for benefits, as well as operating in the context of five different state public benefits systems.

Public Benefits and Community Colleges: Lessons from the Benefits Access for College Completion Evaluation

November 19, 2014

This Final Evaluation Report provides the lessons learned from the Benefits Access for College Completion demonstration (BACC) demonstration project at five of the seven community colleges over the past three years. From the onset of BACC, the evaluation was focused on documenting and learning how the participating colleges approached this work, and how and why they made adjustments during the demonstration. This evaluation approach was intended to provide useful formative feedback to the colleges during the demonstration, but it also was intended to help answer the overarching evaluation question posed by the funders: What are the most promising models for community colleges to increase benefits access for their students, and how can these models be integrated into community college operations?During the course of our evaluation, we observed three key findings that emerged from the BACC demonstration. Colleges converged on the need for a centralized hub to deliver benefits access services, and also began moving toward an opt-out model of pre-screening and screening for benefits access by connecting this initial step in the application process to existing student support services like financial aid and advising. Cutting across these two findings is the critical importance of leadership and commitment to benefits access – up and down the administrative hierarchy and across departments and divisions, but especially for student services. In the following sections, we first present an overview of the BACC demonstration and the various approaches colleges explored at the onset. In Section 2, we provide a detailed discussion of the three main findings from our evaluation, including how the model for delivering benefits access services changed during the demonstration, highlighting specific examples from the five colleges. In Section 3, we discuss the impact analysis at one college where quantitative student data were matched with state administrative data on the receipt of public benefits. We conclude the report by summarizing our core findings, and pointing to additional research that is needed to better understand how benefits access services can be implemented and sustained on a college campus, and the impact of these benefits on student academic outcomes. 

A Voter Participation Starter Kit for Nonprofits and Social Service Agencies

July 9, 2012

The Starter Kit offers an introduction to nonpartisan voter registration, voter education, and get-out-the-vote work. It emphasizes how to integrate voter engagement into your organization's ongoing activities and services--addressing clients and constituents, as well as staff, volunteers, and board members. Each section highlights basic principles and sample activities to help you select easy and effective strategies that will work for you. It also includes special one-page sections on engaging candidates, working on ballot measures, becoming a poll worker, and more.

Labor Market Policy in the Great Recession: Some Lessons from Denmark and Germany

May 20, 2011

This paper reviews the recent labor-market performance of 21 rich countries, with a focus on Denmark and Germany. Denmark, which was widely seen as one of the world's most successful labor markets before the downturn, has struggled in recent years. Germany, however, has outperformed the rest of the world's rich countries since 2007, despite earlier labor-market difficulties. Labor-market institutions seem to explain the different developments in the two economies. Danish institutions -- which include extensive opportunities for education, training, and placement of unemployed workers -- appear to perform well when the economy is at or near full employment, but have not been effective during the downturn. German labor-market institutions, which emphasize job security by keeping workers connected to their current employers, may have drawbacks when the economy is operating at or near full employment, but have performed well in the Great Recession. The paper also discusses lessons for U.S. labor-market policy.

Bed Space Forecast for Baltimore Youth Detention Facility

May 12, 2011

This report describes the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's forecast of future bed space needs for youth detained in the adult criminal justice system in the City of Baltimore, Maryland. These youth are processed and, if necessary, detained in the adult system-currently in the Juvenile Unit of the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC)-after either being charged with certain crimes that require their automatic involvement in the adult justice system (known as an automatic waiver) or being sent to the adult system by a juvenile court judge (known as a judicial waiver).The State is currently considering options for housing these youth, as the present facility is inadequate. A new facility is in the planning stages and is designed to hold 180 youth, based on a forecast completed by the State in 2007. In a 2010 report by NCCD, the earlier forecast was found to overestimate the number of beds needed in a new facility. Subsequently, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services (DPS), along with two local foundations, the Open Society Institute-Baltimore and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, asked NCCD to perform this new forecast to assist in the decision-making process.

Assessing Progress Toward a 21st Century Right to Know

March 1, 2011

On Nov. 12, 2008, the right-to-know community published a set of detailed transparency recommendations for President-elect Barack Obama and Congress. Those recommendations, titled Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda, were developed over a two-year period with input from more than 100 groups and individuals. The seventy recommendations urged the new president and the incoming Congress to act quickly on a number of key government openness issues while also encouraging a more systematic, longer-term approach to a variety of other transparency problems that plague the federal government. The recommendations were endorsed by more than 300 organizations and individuals from across the political spectrum. A senior White House official privately called the recommendations a "blueprint for the Obama administration."The report organized the majority of the recommendations into three chapters.The National Security and Secrecy chapter provided specific recommendations to address the increase in government secrecy that has occurred due to professed national and homeland security concerns.The Usability of Government Information chapter focused on recommendations for how interactive technologies can make information more easily accessible and usable, including protecting the integrity of information and using the best formats and tools.The Creating a Government Environment for Transparency chapter addressed recommendations for creating incentives for openness and shifting government policies and mechanisms to encourage transparency.An additional chapter laid out recommendations for the first 100 days of the administration; the implementation of those recommendations was assessed in an earlier OMB Watch report.This report seeks to assess progress on each recommendation near the midpoint of the president's term as part of Sunshine Week 2011. The many factors at play in each recommendation – vision, leadership, policy, implementation, etc. – make it difficult, if not impossible, to assign simple grades. Instead, we will explain the activities of the administration and Congress on the issues addressed in the recommendations and offer some insights on those actions.It should be noted that no administration could be expected to complete all of the recommendations contained in the 2008 report in just two years' time. There is a very real limit to resources and staff that can be brought to bear on the issue of government openness while still addressing the many other demands on government. Several of the recommendations were explicitly designed as long-term challenges that will take years of work to complete, and of course, the work of implementation is never done.

The Obama Approach to Public Protection: The Regulatory Process

January 1, 2011

When Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, the country faced problems unlike any the country had faced in generations. Each year, food-borne illnesses sickened millions, workplace hazards killed and injured thousands on the job, and air pollution triggered asthma attacks in millions of children and adults. Long procedural delays and political interference in the regulatory process caused deficits in safety and health standards, exacerbating these problems.President Obama seemed to understand the magnitude of the problems and the need to reestablish a badly needed role for government to provide public protections for the economy, workers, consumers, and the environment.This report is the third of three OMB Watch reports evaluating the Obama administration's record on regulatory issues. This report focuses on the regulatory process, including transparency and participation, regulatory analysis, scientific integrity, and the role of the White House, especially the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in shaping the administration's record. The first report addressed health, safety, and environmental rulemaking at federal agencies. The second report focused on federal agency enforcement.This report is divided into five chapters. Following the introduction is a brief history and summary of the existing regulatory process. The third section of the report addresses the role of the Obama White House in the regulatory process. Federal agencies' regulatory actions during the first 20 months of the administration are described in the fourth section, including both rulemaking activity and enforcement activity. Finally, there is a brief conclusion.

The Obama Approach to Public Protection: Enforcement

December 1, 2010

Nearly 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed in his first inaugural address, "[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Those words unleashed a sustained agenda of deregulation and relaxation of regulatory enforcement.Increasingly, unscrupulous companies have been able to cut corners when it comes to issues such as environmental protection, worker safety, and consumer safeguards. In 2010, two such events captured national headlines. On April 5, an explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners, the worst mining accident in 40 years. On April 20, 11 people died and 17 others were injured when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and spilled at least 185 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing extensive damage to marine habitats, as well as the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries. While no one will ever know if a stronger regulatory enforcement system would have prevented these disasters, it is certain that the cozy relationship between government enforcer and business contributed to the problem.President Barack Obama took office acknowledging weaknesses in regulation and arguing that special interests had taken control of the process. This report assesses whether the Obama administration has made progress in reinvigorating regulatory enforcement at the federal level. It covers health, safety, and environmental enforcement at federal agencies from January 2009 to October 2010.This is the second of three OMB Watch reports evaluating the Obama administration's record on regulatory issues. The first report, released in September 2010, focused on rulemaking and will be occasionally referred to in this report. The third report will focus on the regulatory process, including issues of transparency, participation, regulatory analysis, and scientific integrity, and will more deeply examine the role of the White House, specifically the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in shaping the administration's record. The third report will be released in the coming weeks.This report focuses on three areas: worker safety and health, consumer safety and health, and environmental enforcement. The main regulatory agencies covered are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), FDA, CPSC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report also touches upon other departments and agencies to the extent that their rulemaking activity has shaped the administration's record, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service in the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of the Interior.Each of the report's three sections begins with introductory remarks, followed by a detailed analysis of agency actions. The report includes various metrics of enforcement activity, such as numbers of inspections, numbers of violations, and amounts of penalties. The data can serve as a useful baseline for comparisons within or between administrations. However, because of the variety of metrics available, the potential variability among them, and the difficulty of determining the usefulness or virtue of the actions taken, the statistical evidence should be considered only a small component of an evaluation of agency performance.

Search and Discovery: OER's Open Loop

November 4, 2010

Open educational resources (OER) promise increased access, participation, quality, and relevance, in addition to cost reduction. These seemingly fantastic promises are based on the supposition that educators and learners will discover existing resources, improve them, and share the results, resulting in a virtuous cycle of improvement and re-use. By anecdotal metrics, existing web scale search is not working for OER. This situation impairs the cycle underlying the promise of OER, endangering long term growth and sustainability. While the scope of the problem is vast, targeted improvements in areas of curation, indexing, and data exchange can improve the situation, and create opportunities for further scale. I explore the way the system is currently inadequate, discuss areas for targeted improvement, and describe a prototype system built to test these ideas. I conclude with suggestions for further exploration and development.

When a Person with Mental Illness Goes to Prison: How to Help A Guide for Family Members and Friends

September 9, 2010

This guide is designed for anyone who has a loved one with a mental illness in the New York State (NYS) prison system. In 2001 Heather Barr authored "When a Person with Mental Illness is Arrested: How to Help, a handbook for family, friends, peer advocates, and community mental health workers." Introducing the handbook, she wrote that it should not need to exist because it should be unusual for a person with mental illness to encounter the criminal justice system. Tragically, almost ten years later, people with mental illness are not only still being arrested, but at a time when the overall prison population is shrinking, the percentage of people with mental illness in NYS prisons is increasing.

Gloomy Days, but a Ray of Hope, for Working Oregonians

September 3, 2010

Labor Day is an appropriate moment to reflect on the state of Oregon workers. This year's holiday takes place as the nation continues to struggle with the effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Not surprisingly, for most Oregon workers the state of affairs is a tough one. In particular:The wages of a typical Oregon worker last year were lower than in 1979 when adjusted for inflation. The average hourly wage for median wage workers was $15.85 in 2009, down from $16.09 in 2001 and lower than the 1979 level of $16.12.Income inequality -- the gap separating the wealthy from the rest -- remains wide, despite drops in income across the wage scale. The average annual income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Oregon households dropped in 2008, falling 29 percent from the 2007 peak of a little over $1 million. Average income for the typical (median) Oregon household fell 3 percent, from $32,336 in 2007 to $31,243 in 2008.Jobs are expected to remain scarce over the next few years, making it hard for workers to demand better wages. In 2010, Oregon is projected to have 65 jobs available for every 100 working-age Oregonians. That is well below the level of jobs available in 2000, at the peak of the economic cycle of the 1990s. Oregon will not regain the level of jobs per worker seen in 2003 -- the worst year of the 2001-03 recession -- until 2015.Corporations have also felt the effects of the downturn, although they were cushioned by rapid jumps in profits and income prior to the recession. OCPP estimates that corporate profits in Oregon were about $15 billion in 2009, essentially the same level as in 2008. But amid this gloomy scenario, there is one ray of hope for Oregon workers: unionization appears to be holding up better in Oregon than in the nation as a whole. Last year, 17 percent of Oregon's workforce belonged to a union, the third year in a row that the state has seen an uptick in unionization rates. Recent data demonstrate that unions have played a key role in raising wages and benefits, particularly for low-income workers. And research shows that all workers, not just union members, benefit from the union gains. As Oregon workers confront the toughest economic challenges in over 70 years, they should welcome a stronger union voice.