EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW

The Equal Justice Under the Law team is JUFJ’s second statewide campaign team, focusing on dismantling systems that reinforce discrimination and prevent marginalized and working-class communities from accessing their right to equitable treatment. This session, the Equal Justice Under the Law team will be advocating on behalf of two main legislative goals:

MARYLAND DREAM ACT

You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. – Exodus 22:20

With President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under threat at the national level, it is imperative that Maryland take the steps necessary to protect our migrant populations, in particular folks who are undocumented.

We will be supporting our partners in pursuing a number of changes to the Maryland Dream Act–most pressing of which is the elimination of arbitrary restrictions on DACA recipients’ access to education. As of now, the Maryland Dream Act requires those eligible for in-state tuition to attend a community college in the county in which they graduated high school for two years before attending university. Because the federal law did not have this stipulation, many students are now in danger of losing their ability to attend college because they would either be forced to extend their study to accommodate two educationally unnecessary years of community college, or lose their eligibility for in-state tuition.

DEFENDING AND EXPANDING BAIL REFORM

Thus saith the Sovereign One: For three transgressions of Israel, Yea, for four, I will not reverse it: Because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes. – Amos 2:6

Money bail’s purpose is not to keep people incarcerated if they can’t afford to pay; it exists to provide an incentive for defendants to return to court to face charges. Defendants who do not show up forfeit their money bail. Incarceration should not be based on wealth, but until last year, Maryland’s money bail system punished low-income Marylanders while allowing wealthy folks to buy their way out of jail.

In 2017, a new rule adopted by the Court of Appeals required judges to consider other release conditions before relying on money bail. Even if they decide that money bail is needed, they cannot impose an unaffordable bail amount. This rule is a single step in the culture shift needed for Maryland’s justice system to rely less on a corporate industry that profits off the desperation of poor, disproportionately Black families.

Last year, Senator Bobby Zirkin tried to pass a bill that would have rolled back this progress, but thankfully, it was stopped in the House of Delegates. Senator Zirkin intends to reintroduce the same punitive bill in 2018. JUFJ will work with our coalition partners to defeat Senator Zirkin’s bill and to pass additional reforms needed to continue to move Maryland away from a wealth-based bail system.

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