Criminal Justice Reform & Violence Reduction

The level of crime in Baltimore City, including in neighborhoods from Brooklyn to Bayview to Federal Hill to Otterbein and Canton, is unacceptable. The rise in violent crime that has occurred in the past few years is the result of a confluence of factors, including decreasing arrests, lack of successful prosecutions, reduced resources from the Governor’s agencies (State Police, for instance).

In July 2017, along with her Team, Brooke authored Baltimore PROSPERs, a proposal for reducing crime through short and long term strategies. To read it, click HERE.  After working on that framework, Brooke continued to be the leading voice in Annapolis to create a program to support and fund comprehensive community-based proven violence prevention work.

Throughout Brooke’s term, she has consistently pushed to expand proven practices to reduce crime. In 2016, after the unrest, she helped lead the charge to pass a series of bills called the Baltimore Package, that funded programs like afterschool and community development work – all dedicated to improving life in the City and providing opportunities to keep young people off the streets.

In 2017, she worked with the Appropriations Committee (on which she serves) to ensure that Baltimore Police Department received $2 million to install important new technology in squad cars to reduce the time police would be back in the office, and provided a tax credit incentive for BPD officers to live in Baltimore City. Because well-trained police are vital to a safe City, also placed a budget restriction on the state’s police training commission to require them to oversee enhanced efforts by BPD to improve training efforts for mid to low-level officers.

In 2018, Brooke lead the charge to pass the State’s first-ever program to fund evidence-based gun violence prevention work. Her bill, HB 432,the Public Safety & Violence Prevention Act of 2018 had two big parts. The first part created the Maryland Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (MD VIPP) – that will invest in proven, public-health based practices in high-crime areas of the state to reduce gun violence. The second part of the bill makes direct grants to several Baltimore City violence prevention programs, including the State’s Attorney’s office, the LEAD Program, Outward Bound, and the BPD.

Violence in Baltimore is extremely complex. It’s infuriating and frustrating. Brooke is continuing to work to find ways to reduce violence in our neighborhoods by passing legislation, working with partners, and pressuring the executives – both the Governor and Mayor – to do more.

At the same time, Brooke has been a leader in criminal justice reform efforts, empowering formerly-incarcerated individuals to lead productive and safe lives. She helped ensure passage of a strong version of the Second Chance Act, a bill to allow certain convictions to be expunged to enable Marylanders to access housing and jobs. She has also worked hard to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, by passing bills such as a prohibition on suspending and expelling our youngest children – like those in Kindergarten. Brooke has been a leader on bail reform issues, writing a letter that prompted the the issuance of an Attorney General opinion in 2016 that led the Court of Appeals to implement a major rule change on cash bail. This rule change should help keep truly dangerous individuals accused of crimes behind bars – and ineligible for bail – while awaiting trial, rather than allowing those who have access to money to buy their way out.