The Maryland Gender-Responsive Prerelease Act, which mandates the development of a prerelease facility for incarcerated women, was initially vetoed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in May 2020. That veto was later overridden by a simple majority in February 2021. Yet, as reported by Eddie Conway and Charles Hopkins for The Real News Network, hundreds of imprisoned women are still being denied access to a prerelease facility, an essential program which provides aid and resources for individuals’ reintegration into society.
In 2021, Congress appropriated $1.5 million for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) to construct a women’s prerelease facility. However, in an interview with The Real News Network, the executive director of Out For Justice, Nicole Hanson-Mundell, shared that DPSCS have yet to spend one dime of the allocated $1.5 million toward meeting this goal. Hanson-Mundell and other advocates are now attending numerous budget hearings involving the Department of Corrections in order to ensure adequate funding is guaranteed toward the creation of a prerelease facility for incarcerated women in Maryland.
According to Baltimore-based organization Out For Justice, incarcerated males in Maryland “have nine separate prerelease and minimum security facilities while women have zero.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, prisons have been home to a majority of the largest, single-site outbreaks. These outbreaks, on top of the preexisting stresses in correctional facilities, can create a dispiriting environment for incarcerated individuals. Hanson-Mundell describes how a prerelease facility provides hope for these women, a chance to rejoin civilian life, start working, or see their families. Yet, many women have been denied this right. According to Out For Justice, 1 in 10 women at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCI-W) have qualified for prerelease, yet as many as 30 percent of these women have not been assigned work opportunities.
As of February 2022, up-to-date corporate coverage regarding the lack of women’s prerelease facilities in Maryland is scarce. In January 2020, the Washington Post covered efforts to convert the Brockbridge Correctional Facility, a former maximum security prison, into a “comprehensive prerelease, reentry, and workforce development facility.” Although women’s advocates maintained that the coed design was unlikely to meet everyone’s needs equally, emphasizing the importance of gender-specific programming and legislation. That same month, NPR published a similar report. However, because both were published prior to the pandemic, neither could foresee how unlivable America’s prisons would soon become. A key element in The Real News Network reporting recognizes organizers’ repeated efforts to encourage Maryland officials to follow through with the Gender-Responsive Prerelease Act, despite Governor Hogan’s attempt to veto the bill. A January 2021 Baltimore Sun report failed to acknowledge the work done by Hanson-Mundell, Senator Mary Washington, State Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield, and so many others to shepherd this bill into law.
Source: Eddie Conway and Charles Hopkins, “‘It Is Torture’: Women In Maryland’s Prisons Have Nowhere To Turn,” The Real News Network, February 14, 2022.
Student Researchers: Thomas Gruttadauria, Kate Horgan, and Lydia Jankowski (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Advisor: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)