Baltimore to end nonviolent criminal prosecutions

'There’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses,' said Marilyn Mosby

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced her plan to discontinue the prosecution of minor charges like drug possession, prostitution, and trespassing. According to The Washington Post, not only did violent crime rates drop in Baltimore by 20 percent, and property crime by 36 percent, but the city also saw fewer homicides by 13 percent when compared with 2019.

Accused offenders who had not yet been sentenced were granted a major reprieve when Mosby made this decision, resulting further in 20 percent fewer people in jail and 39 percent fewer people entering the city’s criminal justice system, as reported by The Post. This move also accounted for the dismissal of more than 1,400 pending cases and the rescinding of more than 1,400 warrants for non-violent crimes.

Race & Justice: Marilyn Mosby Interview
Marilyn J. Mosby (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for BET Networks)

According to The Post, on Monday, Mosby made what began as a temporary response in the the interest of public health, a permanent measure to remedy failures of the criminal justice system. Mosby wants to rehabilitate nonviolent criminal offenders by offering them rightful and necessary access to behavioral health resources, instead of locking them up.

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“A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore.” Mosby said. “What we learned in that year, and it’s so incredibly exciting, is there’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and Brown people.”

“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” Mosby said further. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.”

Baltimore is still a city overwhelmed by violent crime, even with the decline it’s seen during the coronavirus pandemic, and Mosby’s initiative will allow prosecutors to spend more time addressing violent criminal offenders.

Race & Justice: Marilyn Mosby Interview
Marilyn J. Mosby (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for BET Networks)

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Per The Post, Mosby noted the significance of last summer’s racial justice protests and the catalytic impression they made upon social justice reform. Kobi Little, head of the Baltimore NAACP said Mosby had been “responsive to the community’s needs and to calls for equity.”

According to the Post, he said the new approach has led to “reduced policing and incarceration of Black people, increased access to crisis services” and “reduction in violent crime.”

Mosby highlighted the disparity in prison population statistics, emphasizing that although Black people comprise only 13 percent of the nation’s population, 35 percent of inmates convicted for drug-related offenses are Black. “As a prosecutor, our mission is justice over convictions,” said Mosby. “You have to understand the importance of rectifying the wrongs of the past.”

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