Baltimore Permanently Stops Prosecuting Low Level and Nonviolent Crimes.
Baltimore won’t prosecute petty offenses anymore, but where did it start?
Roughly a year ago, at the time when COVID-19 related lockdowns began, Marilyn Mosby (Baltimore City State’s Attorney) halted prosecuting drug possession, traffic violations, prostitution, among other minor offenses. The aim was to prevent overcrowding and help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in regional jails.
Baltimore City decided to treat those offenses as public health issues and joined hands with behavioral services and community groups to facilitate people’s access to the needed help instead of putting them behind bars. The plan was called the Covid Criminal Justice Policies.
The results of Baltimore’s Covid Criminal Justice Policies
The halting of Baltimore’s persecutions of minor crimes resulted in a miracle: in nearly all categories, crime declined. It confirms what Marilyn Mosby and some other like-minded criminal justice experts have maintained for years: excessive policing doesn’t necessarily work to curb criminality.
After implementing the Covid Criminal Justice Policies justice for just about a year, Baltimore City saw an 18% decline in incarceration rate, a 36% decline in property crime, and a 20% fall in violent crime. There has also been a 39% decline in the number of persons entering the city’s criminal justice system compared to one year ago.
While shootings and homicides skyrocketed elsewhere in the US, especially in most big cities, Baltimore recorded 13 fewer homicides from last March to this month.
However, Baltimore City still records some of the highest suicide rates in the US.
Marilyn Mosby asked John Hopkins University to review Baltimore’s crime data over the last 12 months. The researchers at the institution discovered that calls to the police relating to prostitution and drugs had reduced dramatically.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore dismissed 1431 persons who had warrants or charges. According to Hopkins researchers, only five of those persons were arrested, representing 0.000 3%.
Thus, the city concluded that there is no public safety value in prosecuting low-level crimes.
What will be the new norm in Baltimore from now on?
Mosby, on March 26, 2021, made her temporary COVID-19 measures permanent. She noted that Covid Criminal Justice Policies have resulted in a decline in arrests and no adverse effects on the crime rate. The City policymakers have also pointed out that these policies have in some way addressed the systemic inequality of mass jailing.
Thus, the office of the state attorney in Baltimore will no longer prosecute crimes that are considered low level, including:
- Paraphernalia possession
- Open container
- CDS (drug) possession
- Vagabond and rogue
- Minor traffic offenses
- Attempted distribution CDS
- Defecating or urinating in public
Although Baltimore will decline prosecution of minor offenders, the city officials will partner with behavioral health services, for example, the Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), to get sex workers, drug users, and people with mental illnesses the professional help they need. The new plan aims to direct this category of people into treatment instead of jail.
Should the experiment in Baltimore be replicated elsewhere?
Baltimore’s COVID-19 experiment has resulted in what some have called a miracle. It’s possibly a new shift for the city forever, and whether a majority of other cities in the US can replicate this experiment remains to be seen. Perhaps this is something Seattle should consider doing as well. However, some cities already have similar programs, though with mixed results.
Prosecutors in several large cities in the US have moved to reduce policing on especially drugs. Rather than treating drug abuse as a crime, most prosecutors are now advising their communities to treat it as a public health problem. Oregon voters, for example, have decriminalized small quantities of drugs across the state. The results are impressive so far.
In Illinois, the state attorney’s office in Cook County (which includes Chicago) also halted the prosecution of minor crimes in the early days of Covid. However, Cook County has seen a rise in shootings and homicides. Thus, the County might need to dig deeper into what caused the increase before replicating what Baltimore has done.
San Francisco is another major city that was taken drastic measures to defund the police and exercise leniency on petty offenders. But the city has seen an explosion and all kinds of nonviolent and violent crimes. Murder cases have increased, people migrating from the metro area, and even business people are leaving too.
Is everybody on board with Mosby’s decision?
Although the Covid Criminal Justice Policies have received praise from liberals, the idea doesn’t sit pretty with some people, especially republican leaning conservatives.
Opponents of the move have described it as an exercise in legislating and not prosecutorial discretion. Some people think that what Mosby did is what the legislature is supposed to do.
Although Mosby’s plan may manage to decongest the prison facilities in Baltimore, some have argued that her policy’s long-term consequences may be dire. Keeping petty offenders out of correctional facilities can be a precursor to more severe and violent crimes. According to the opponents of Mosby’s plan, it’s these small things that later lead to serious crimes such as drug-related shootings and human trafficking.
The bottom line
The US war on drug users and other people grappling with mental illnesses should have been over ages ago. Luckily Baltimore seems to the leading the way in approaching criminal justice reform.
However, it remains to be seen if the crime rate will stay low. The opioid crisis is still taking a toll on the city, and suicide and crime rates are still high in absolute terms.
Moreover, murders, violent crimes, drug distributions, attempted murders, armed robberies, among other serious crimes, are not exempted from the new Mosby plan. These crimes still attract severe penalties in Baltimore.
If you or someone you know is facing drug-related charges, or any other criminal charges in Washington, immediately get in touch with the reputable Vindicate Law. Our team of legal experts will build a strong defense and is determined to win your life back.