The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has seen law enforcement and criminal justice agencies across the country make adjustments in what crimes they do and don’t prosecute in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. In Baltimore, those adjustments will remain permanent as the city prosecutor announced her office will no longer prosecute a multitude of low-level offenses.
According to CNN, over the last year, the city had implemented a series of changes under the Covid Criminal Justice Policies, a series of solutions developed with public health authorities to address low-level offenses while also not increasing the spread of the virus for people incarcerated. The yearlong experiment has seen the city’s incarcerated population drop by 18 percent, with violent and property crimes going down by 20 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
As a result, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has decided to no longer prosecute the following low-level crimes: “drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offense, open container violations, and urinating and defecating in public.”
“Today, America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction,” Mosby said in a press release.
The state attorney’s office will work alongside the Baltimore Police Department, as well as Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., in order to provide services to people found committing these offenses as opposed to arresting them. The BCRI is a crisis center focused on helping those with mental health and substance issues.
“Rather than arrest and prosecution, BCRI will connect individuals with services in areas such as mental health, housing, and substance use,” the press release read. In addition to BCRI, Mosby’s office will also work with SPARC, a center for women in southwest Baltimore, Baltimore Safe Haven, an organization that provides assistance for transgender people, as well as the Sex Workers Outreach Project.
Mosby’s decision has the support of both Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. The Baltimore branch of the NAACP has also come out in support of the decision by the state’s attorney.
“In a year that has shown us the importance of equity, both as it relates to the coronavirus and the incidences of police violence, we are pleased to see that the state’s attorney’s office for Baltimore City under the leadership of State’s Attorney Mosby has been responsive to the community’s needs and to calls for equity,” Rev. Kobi Little, president of the Baltimore NAACP, said in the press release.