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Illinois and Maryland Achieve Firsts in Justice System Reform
April 22 – May 05, 2021
The Other Side

con ted lieu

This year has started with Illinois and Maryland passing historic laws that many believe will help purify the historically tainted American justice system. In April, Maryland passed bills that will place limitations on no-knock warrants, require police to wear body cameras, and repeal that state's infamous police Bill of Rights. In February, Illinois passed laws requiring police officers to be licensed by the state, to wear body cameras, and to completely eliminate cash bonds.

In 1974, Maryland became the first state to enact a police Bill of Rights that protect police officers from investigation, prosecution, and transparency. Once passed in “The Free State,” it quickly spread to police departments across the nation. Maryland has become the first to repeal it.

Port of Harlem contributor Tyrone Colbert says these movements provide him and many others housed in the Jessup Correctional Center in Maryland hope. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said via phone.

The Land of Obama and Lincoln become the first state to completely eliminate cash bond payments for people who have been arrested and are waiting for their case to be heard. Many call cash bail payments a "poor people's tax" since it leaves those who can't come up with the money in jail for weeks or even accepting plea deals as a way to get out of jail and back to their lives and jobs.

According to a study by researchers at UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, of the $194 million in nonrefundable bail bond deposits paid between 2012 and 2016 to the City of Los Angeles, LatinX paid $92 million, African Americans paid $41 million, and Whites paid $38 million.

On the national level, Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) is the chief sponsor of the No Money Bail Act. “Those who can’t make bail can end up losing jobs and their homes, and sometimes their ability to care for their families. In short, money bail criminalizes being poor. I firmly believe that safety should be our primary concern when detaining someone before trial, and we shouldn’t make these decisions based on a person’s finances,” explained Representative Lieu.

Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois bill. Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the Maryland bill, but the Democratically controlled assembly overrode his veto.
Coming Up:
Criminal Justice Reform in America: Policing and Pretrial Detention
The Brookings Institution
Fri, Apr 30, 10a-11:30a

Fact Sheet: George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Of 2020
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