By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

The Maryland Equitable Justice Collaborative (MEJC) held a forum on Nov. 6 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore to address how Maryland can approach incarceration differently. The MEJC called on community leaders and members to discuss a way forward to ensure Black and Brown people are no longer the victims of over-incarceration.

The MEJC is a new collaboration between Attorney General Anthony Brown and public defender Natasha Dartigue to address mass incarceration in Maryland.

“This is the beginning of great things, of which you are a part. You as a part of the community, you on the frontlines are an important part of moving forward,” said Dartigue. “The purpose of us coming together in partnership is to make significant change especially as it pertains to mass incarceration.”

Brown made it known that the collaboration is open to anyone who wants to join.

“If you’re interested in being in the collaborative, you can be apart,” said Brown. “Whether you are a member of the general assembly, a part of an advocacy group, policy group or whoever and whatever your experience.”

During a poll at the packed forum, 60 percent of the 83 attendees who responded said a member of their immediate family has been incarcerated.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, 52 percent of people in Maryland jails and 69 percent of people in Maryland prisons are Black, even though Black people only make up just 31 percent of the state population.

Many attendees stepped to the microphone to ask questions or give comments on mass incarceration in the state and a path forward.

“One of the ideas I have is creating an agency-level organization that handles the re-entry of our returning citizens. I’ve seen many of my family members get [imprisoned] in D.C. and come out and become authors and productive citizens, have houses and jobs, but I’m not seeing that level of support in Maryland,” said Del. Kym Taylor (D-Dist. 23).