HB 917 - Corrections – Restrictive Housing – Prohibition - Maryland Catholic Conference

HB 917 - Corrections – Restrictive Housing – Prohibition

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

House Bill 917 prohibits the placement of an inmate of a State correctional facility in restrictive housing, with certain exceptions; requiring a certain facility to document the usage of restrictive housing in a certain manner; and requiring records concerning the use of restrictive housing, excluding any identifying information, to be posted promptly on the website of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Pope Francis has equated punishment involving external isolation to a form of “torture.” He denoted that states should not be “allowed, juridical or in fact, to subordinate respect for the dignity of the human person to any other purpose, even should it serve some sort of social utility.” (Address of Pope Francis to the Delegates of the International Association of Penal Law, October, 2014) The Church upholds that systems of criminal justice should seek both justice and mercy, with an emphasis upon restoration of communities, victims and offenders as a whole. Restrictive housing is a means toward none of these ends and is a regressive policy. It is thus important that the State of Maryland, at the very least, seriously limit its usage. Regardless of their offense, prisoners are exposed to the perils of incarceration for the crimes they’ve committed. Solitary confinement only compiles these perils and limits their hope for rehabilitation. Simply the relative isolation of confinement is enough to aggravate existing mental health issues.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 917.