The Maryland Prisoners’ Rights Coalition is a coalition governed by the directly impacted and supported by advocacy organizations statewide. We work to improve conditions of confinement for adults and juveniles confined in Maryland state prisons, jails and detention centers. We strive to obtain these goals by advocating with the incarcerated, their families, and impacted communities through advocacy, both administrative and direct, public awareness, legislation and litigation.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Advocacy organizations and Maryland constituents call for immediate measures to protect medically vulnerable incarcerated residents within the state's correctional facilities during the COVID-19 emergency
1. Governor Larry Hogan should immediately take action regarding incarcerated individuals who are medically vulnerable as public health experts nationwide have advised. In a letter to Governor Hogan today, a Coalition of organizations and Maryland constituents strongly urged the Governor and the Maryland Parole Commission to take action to expedite the release of individuals identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and national healthcare experts as chronically ill and medically vulnerable by utilizing and expanding procedures that are currently exist. As well, this letter urges necessary steps be taken to ensure that judicial hearings that could result in releases are considered “emergency hearings”. These actions would mitigate the spread of Coronavirus within Maryland correctional facilities and prevent an inevitable public health crisis.
In the letter, the Coalition asks Governor Hogan for an Executive Order that includes the following urgent and necessary steps:
2. Expedites the parole procedures including reviews, notification of victims, hearings and release proceedings for individuals over 60 and those at-risk and vulnerable individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, auto-immune disease, and immunodeficiency), making them most susceptible to the COVID-19’s debilitating consequences. Give immediate priority to those who fit the medically vulnerable criteria who are set to be released on parole or mandatory release within the next five years, who do not pose a threat to public safety, and who have secured a stable and confirmed home plan. Immediately execute remote reviews and hearings as the capability to perform remote parole reviews/hearings is already in place within the Maryland Parole Commission.
3. Orders Courts to designate hearings that could result in someone’s release from prison/jail, including modification of sentences, as “emergency” proceedings that require a hearing and that asks the Court for leniency in cases of medical vulnerability.
4. Expedites applications for and establishes emergency commutations for individuals over 60 and those at-risk and vulnerable individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, auto-immune disease, and immunodeficiency) making them most susceptible to the virus and debilitating results AND whose mandatory release is within the next five years, who do not pose a threat to public safety and who have secured a stable and confirmed home plan.
5. Orders Courts to designate any hearing that could result in someone’s release from prison/jail, particularly modification of sentences or successive bail reviews, are “emergency” proceedings that require a hearing.
6. Liberally utilizes and expedites processing of geriatric and medical parole, and urges aggressive use of its recently-expanded authority to grant administrative parole per Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. §7-301.1.
Nationwide, the call for reducing the incarcerated population is growing as public health experts confirm and outline the immense dangers particularly for the medically vulnerable within correctional facilities. This can be done in a manner to ensure public safety and through procedures that are already in place. These procedures can be expanded and expedited as the recommendations outline. Correctional healthcare is already noted to be substandard both statewide and nationally and Maryland’s current healthcare provider, Corizon, has historically been cited for their inability to provide adequate care. The fundamental nature of the prison environment does not allow what is needed to combat the effects of COVID-19 or the necessary monitoring for medically vulnerable individuals. This has been an ongoing warning voiced by public health experts and physicians. They are NOT safer in this environment and those conditions are not going to change anytime soon. It is truly inconceivable that these correctional facilities have the capacity to handle this task with continual staffing issues and documented failures to provide care. It should not be acceptable for this population to be an afterthought. There is no reason why, with the severity of this pandemic, seriously vulnerable individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety should not be released to an environment that can ensure they can get care that they need before it is too late.
By following the recommendations outlined in the coalition’s letter, state officials can take the needed steps to prevent loss of life and irreparable harm as well as ensure that the health and safety of ALL Maryland residents is of the utmost importance.
Maryland Prisoners’ Rights Coalition
Johns Hopkins Incarceration and Health Justice Collective
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland
Reproductive Justice Inside Coalition
Hopkins Medicine Engaging Homelessness
Doctors for America-Maryland Chapter
Interfaith Action for Human Rights
Save Our Children, Washington County
Baltimore Jail Support
Open Minds, Inc.
We have over 160 signatures as of 11 am / 3/25/2020.
Thank you for your time.
On November 12, 2019, the Maryland Prisoners’ Rights Coalition (MPRC) partnered with the Johns Hopkins Incarceration Health and Justice Collective (IHJC) for a public forum addressing the healthcare needs within Maryland's prisons and jails. This collaboration kicks off the Correctional Healthcare Campaign and is the first in a series of efforts to improve the healthcare received or not received by incarcerated individuals. This issue should be of great concern and a priority for all of us.
Healthcare Behind the Wall: The Crisis of Deliberate Indifference: Public Forum held at University of Maryland Carey School of Law January 28, 2020; the second in a series of public forums regarding the current state and quality of healthcare received by incarcerated individuals in Maryland Correctional Facilities. The speakers for this forum addressed the shocking truth about what is happening behind the wall and its large impact on communities as well as the legal implications and the deliberate indifference being shown to this forgotten population
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