Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026 or Elizabeth Mendez Berry at (212) 613-8036
Today, in a landslide vote, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bipartisan bill that would divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment. It will now head to the Senate. If passed, the bill is poised to save Maryland taxpayers millions of dollars, as well as to provide addicts with a humane, effective alternative to prison.
“The vote of 139:1 on this issue is indicative of a powerful movement around the country,” said Michael Blain, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Director of Public Policy, who has been working with Maryland legislators on this bill. “Legislators are putting aside party lines to divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of incarceration–it just makes sense, fiscally and socially and is a step in the right direction to reducing the harm done by the War on Drugs.”
Maryland prisons are filled with nonviolent drug offenders who need treatment, not incarceration. 90% of drug offenders currently incarcerated in the state of Maryland are African Americans. Drug treatment programs are less expensive than prisons and more effective at helping people turn their lives around. Of Maryland’s 23,000 state prison inmates, about 25% are nonviolent drug offenders. It costs as much as $43,000 a year to keep someone imprisoned while drug treatment only costs around $7,000 per patient – a savings of $36,000 per person each year! HB295 would immediately shift nonviolent drug offenders from prison to drug treatment, saving state taxpayers close to $7 million. This bill is sponsored by the Black Caucus, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., Republican House leadership, Women’s Caucus, and other influential groups.