In #TestimonyTuesday, Baltimore, MD, Maryland State, Montgomery County, MD

TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF HB745

Correctional Facilities – Restrictive Housing – Pregnant Inmates

AND IN SUPPORT OF HB1001

Correctional Services – Restrictive Housing – Reporting by Correctional Units and Requirements Relating to Minors

 

TO: Hon. Luke Clippinger, Chair, and members of the House Judiciary Committee

FROM: Andrew J. Miller

I am a voter in District 11, Delegate Jon Cardin’s district, and I submit this testimony in favor of HB745 and HB1001 as a private citizen concerned about the excessive use in Maryland correctional facilities of restrictive housing. I have read extensively on this topic, and learned from lawyers working on this issue and from formerly incarcerated individuals who had personal experience with restrictive housing. I believe this practice is barbaric and violates fundamental tenets of my Jewish faith.

My faith teaches that all people must be treated with dignity and respect. Yet people incarcerated in Maryland endure restrictive housing at nearly twice the national rate, especially poor people and people of color. According to the Talmud we are obligated to come to the aid of one whose body and health are threatened.

Restrictive housing is often used for arbitrary reasons that are rarely subjected to scrutiny or public accountability. This practice is known to cause or contribute to mental-health disorders including PTSD; its use for more than 15 days is considered a form of torture. The average stay among Maryland prisoners subjected to this treatment in 2017 was 8 weeks.

Juveniles who are at an earlier and more vulnerable stage of brain development and emotional maturity than the adult population may suffer from serious mental illness as a consequence of placement in restrictive housing. Pregnant and post-partum women who are placed involuntarily in medical isolation, without access to behavioral health counseling and social services and without continuous oversight by independent medical professionals, are subjected to unnecessary and inhumane conditions that may lead to lasting consequences for mother and child. These practices need to be limited, supervised, and subject to public accountability.

I respectfully urge the members of the House Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of both HB745 and HB1001.

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