SB 403 - Public Institutions of Higher Education - Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Individuals - Academic and Employment Opportunities

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 403 would require the Maryland Higher Education Commission, in consultation with public institutions of higher education and Maryland Correctional Enterprises, to establish a process to increase access to academic and employment opportunities at public institutions of higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals who are or were employed by Maryland Correctional Enterprises during their incarceration; and specifying the requirements for the process.

In its pastoral statement “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice” (USCCB, 2000), the United States conference of Catholic Bishops cited the “absence of educational opportunities” among considerations “contributing to a high rate of recidivism”. The USCCB also cited “education” as one of the key “necessities that enable inmates to live in dignity.”

The Church maintains that systems of justice, including incarceration, should be centered around restorative justice. In doing so, systems of justice provide for second chances, providing hope for those who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. Education is a means to a fruitful and productive life upon release and is a preventative measure against post-release poverty and/or recidivism. For these important reasons, we urge a favorable report on Senate Bill 403.