Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler took aim Monday at the “extremely high” rate at which ex-offenders return to prison in Maryland, saying that he would attack the problem with more than “lip service” if elected governor next year.
“We’ve had no strategic, well-coordinated plan,” Gansler (D) said at an event in Baltimore, where he outlined several initiatives for reducing recidivism, including making technology such as Android tablets available to prisoners to aid their education while behind bars.
The event was Gansler’s latest stop on his “Building Our Best Maryland” tour, which he has used to discuss a series of policy proposals in advance of the formal announcement of his gubernatorial bid next month.
Other ideas put forward by Gansler on Monday included designating a deputy secretary in the state’s corrections department to oversee the “re-entry” of ex-offenders into society; shielding criminal convictions from potential employers in cases where ex-offenders have stayed “clean” for five years after release; and investing more heavily in subsidized transitional housing for those recently released from prison.
“We have to have a recognition that people come out of jail,” Gansler told an invited audience of about two dozen people that included administrators of non-profit programs. “The vast, vast, vast majority of people who are incarcerated are coming out.”
In next June’s primary, Gansler is likely to face two Democrats who have announced their candidacies: Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).
During Monday’s event, Gansler, an independently elected statewide official, was critical of the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), which includes Brown.
“In other states, they’ve taken significant steps to fix this problem,” Gansler said of the “revolving door” between prison and free society.
Gansler said that in Maryland, ex-offenders return to prison close to 50 percent of the time, citing reports issued by the state.
Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the corrections department, said Gansler’s campaign appeared to be referencing outdated material, saying the rate was 43.3 percent in 2011, the most recent figure available. That is lower, Binetti said, than in 2004, when it was 48.5 percent.
Addressing reporters Monday, Brown cited the decline but acknowledged more work needs to be done, suggesting “investments” in substance and abuse programs and skill training programs should continue to grow.
“To say that we haven’t done anything is an overstatement,” Brown said. “To say that there is work to be done, certainly is something that I recognize.”
Brown spoke to reporters following an event in Bethesda with O’Malley, where the governor highlighted more than $1 billion in new spending on transportation projects benefiting Montgomery County, including the planned light-rail Purple Line.
Mizeur also made a public appearance Monday, joining volunteers to paint clasrooms and hallways at a Baltimore elementary school.