Baltimore County Department of Corrections Deputy Director Renard Brooks shared statistics on the number of inmates who require detoxification services. He also described treatment and re-entry services available to inmates as they transition back into the community. Judge Nancy Purpura, Circuit Court for Baltimore County, and Judge Kimberly Thomas, District Court in Baltimore County, the presiding judges for Baltimore County’s respective adult drug court programs, explained the main features of these specialty court programs which offer a collaborative approach between agencies, intensive supervision and treatment, wrap around services and a system of incentives and sanctions.
State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and District Public Defender James Dills discussed some of the challenges in prosecuting and defending cases involving defendants with significant substance abuse and/or mental health disorders. They both expressed the need for additional resources and alternatives to sentencing where appropriate. During the Baltimore County forum, panelists were asked about efforts to ensure equitable treatment. “The Equal Justice Committee is looking at all aspects of equitable treatment,” said Judge Ballou-Watts. “That includes reviewing internal court operations, looking at sentencing laws such as mandatory minimum sentences, revisiting judicial philosophies, and re-evaluating the training judges receive to determine if more can be done to address implicit bias and other concerns that lead to inequitable results.” The subcommittee held its final forum for the 2021 calendar year in Anne Arundel County on November 18. The topic was “Sentencing in Criminal Cases.” The Anne Arundel County NAACP was the community partner organization and Reverend Stephen Andrew Tillett served as the forum moderator. Panelists included Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County judges Elizabeth Morris and Glenn Klavans, Judge Sidney Butcher, District Court in Anne Arundel County, Clerk of Circuit Court Scott Poyer, executive director of the Maryland State Commission on Sentencing Policy David Soulé, State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, District Public Defender Elizabeth Palan, Attorney Daryl Jones, and Director of American University’s Diversity and Inclusion School of Public Affairs, Dr. Kareem Jordan. Factors in determining sentences, the use of Maryland Sentencing Guidelines, concerns about sentencing disparities and the role of the prosecutor and defense counsel were discussed. In 2022, more community forums are planned beginning with Prince George’s County on “Guardianship, Youth in Care and Services for People in Need.” Additional forums on bail reform, substance abuse treatment and other requested topics are planned for jurisdictions across the state.
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