HB 1029 Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing – Limitations (Restrictive Housing Reform Act of 2019) - Maryland Catholic Conference

HB 1029 Correctional Services - Restrictive Housing – Limitations (Restrictive Housing Reform Act of 2019)

Committee: House Judiciary

Position: Support

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 1029 overhauls the use of restrictive housing in correctional facilities in the state. Specifically, it requires that when an inmate is placed in restrictive housing, he or she is given written notice detailing the reasons for the placement within six hours, undergoes a review confirming the basis for the placement, and is given a comprehensive mental health evaluation before placement. It limits the use of restrictive housing based upon the number of infractions, and prohibits the use of restrictive housing for more than 15 consecutive days or a total of 90 days in a one-year period. Lastly, it requires the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to report on the steps it has taken to implement the bill and improve the use of restrictive housing, including de-escalation policies.

Pope Francis has equated punishment involving external isolation to a form of “torture.” He denoted that states should not be “allowed, juridically 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.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 1029.