Disappointed By Prosecution Approach
At the end of her first year as the State’s Attorney for Worcester County, Kris Heiser reported that her drug prosecutors and drug treatment court team had been busy ensuring that “those suffering from addiction receive treatment, while those dealing drugs receive prison time.” She also recognized that crime was often a symptom of larger issues such as addiction and mental illness.
As a volunteer with Life After Release, I spent an afternoon in Worcester Circuit Court last month. I can tell you that the assistant state’s attorney did not get the memo about addiction or mental illness. Last week, Assistant State’s Attorney Joaquin Cabrera prosecuted a local man charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The loved one asked the court to release him to a rehabilitation facility to deal with addiction and the childhood trauma he had denied until recently. The judge did not disbelieve the man saying, “It’s a small county, Mr. C. I know your father.”
But Mr. C was not released. Calling him a maximum offender, the ASA told the judge he would have asked for more than 20 years (for a non-violent crime) if he could. The defense counsel argued for rehabilitation, something the court has not tried in two decades of interacting with Mr. C. Instead, the judge sentenced this black man, father of an 11-year-old, to 12 years of incarceration.
The same ASA had prosecuted two white men who maintained a vast pot-growing operation with state-of-the-art technology. They were both found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and given suspended sentences of less than two years.
State’s Attorney Heiser, your words don’t match your prosecutor’s actions. Your teams have made sure that those suffering from addiction get prison time, while those managing a sophisticated drug manufacturing infrastructure go home. The residents of Worcester County deserve to know what’s really happening in their courts. They deserve prosecutors and judges whose actions reveal an understanding of addiction, mental illness and racial disparities. And until that happens, we at Life After Release will be in the courtrooms, knowing too well that, “Injustice happens in empty courtrooms every day.”
Life After Release is an organization based in Prince George’s County, Md., led by formerly incarcerated women who demand greater transparency and fairness from the criminal legal system.
Suggested Change For Berlin Bathtub Races
I understand that, as of now, the Berlin Bathtub Races are scheduled for June 11 in downtown. This is a tremendous event and brings a great deal of potential customers to Berlin. We hope it will be held this year and not be cancelled due to pandemic concerns.
However, whether or not there are pandemic concerns at the time of the races, I think one guideline should be included with the rules. We went to the event only once and saw how crowded it can get. This may not be the case this year due to the pandemic. In any case, if the event is crowded, I think a simple courtesy should be encouraged — asking those who are spectators to the races to pretty much remain in one place.
We found in our one experience as spectators that, in the midst of the crowds, people would keep walking back and forth, obstructing the views of those who wish to see the races. Why is it so difficult to remain in one place rather than walking back and forth throughout the races? This is very discourteous and annoying. Thank you.
Incarcerated Individuals Deserve Right To Vote
Maryland is one of only 20 states that allow people with felony convictions to vote once they have been released from incarceration. This means that even if someone is on parole or probation, they are eligible to vote in the state of Maryland.
While we made great progress in restoring the rights of voters in 2016, the state has failed to provide a process to ensure eligible voters who are incarcerated have access to ballots and voting information. There continues to be a broad misunderstanding among jail and prison officials, and indeed among incarcerated persons themselves, on whether pretrial detainees and people incarcerated for misdemeanors are eligible to vote and how to go about voting.
But the Maryland General Assembly has an opportunity to address this issue with the Value My Vote Act (HB 222). If passed, the bill will ensure eligible incarcerated Marylanders – the majority of whom are Black and Brown — are knowledgeable about all aspects of the voting process, including how to exercise their right to vote while incarcerated.
The bill builds on the progress made during the 2020 general election, when election officials, for the first time, worked with advocates to provide eligible incarcerated voters with voter registration and ballot request forms. The bill includes those components and requires secure drop boxes at all facilities throughout the state, ensures people can call the State Board Elections hotline at no cost to ask voting questions and report issues, and provides access to nonpartisan voter education materials. It would also ensure incarcerated people are made aware of their right to vote and how to vote upon release.
At the time where we see attempts being made throughout the country to suppress the votes of Black and brown people, Maryland can be a national leader by ensuring the rights of eligible voters who are incarcerated. As a matter of fairness and justice, we must ensure voting is truly accessible for all eligible Maryland voters — no matter where they temporarily reside.
I urge the Maryland General Assembly to listen to formerly and currently incarcerated citizens throughout the state that are calling on you to value their votes. Pass the Value My Vote Act (HB 222).
(The writer is a Legislative Fellow at Common Cause Maryland.)
Parking Waivers Need Elected Officials’ Review
I am writing in regard to your article in the April 2 issue addressing outdoor seating applications.
Temporary relaxing of the requirements due to the pandemic for the local hospitality businesses was necessary.
Parking should not be waived or changed to allow for outside seating on public property on a permanent basis.
Beach Barrels, a north Ocean City bar and non-conforming site, recently received an additional six waivers bringing the total at site to 18.
Additionally, a wooden deck a few inches above the parking lot and ADA parking was stipulated. No safety or bumper poles were on architectural drawings. This for a business that advertises carry-out liquor.
Petitioner made no mention of available property abutting business that is available. Petitioner is aware of this as a “POD” was previously placed on corner of property.
This needs to be reviewed by higher authority. The Mayor and City Council need to review parking wavier as this is a long standing problem in Ocean City.
Outdoor drinking and eating for the industry? Yes.
Elimination or waiver of parking? No.
Robert R. Hemp, Jr.
Governor’s Vaccine Comments Irresponsible
Last week at his press conference, Governor Larry Hogan said, “It’s great for people all over Maryland to drive to Salisbury to get vaccinated. We want to encourage far more people to do that. Like, this is Easter weekend; it’s a big weekend for Ocean City. I think if you haven’t gotten a vaccine. You want one, I would say, get in your car tomorrow, drive to the beach, stop in Salisbury, get everybody vaccinated, and then go to Ocean City and get some Thrasher’s French fries, stay for the weekend and go to Easter brunch on Sunday morning.”
With COVID cases once again over 6% and rising across the Lower Eastern Shore and so many of our residents waiting to receive their shots, many of which are frontline workers, over 60 years old, or have pre-existing conditions, the Governor’s comments are nothing short of irresponsible and dangerous.
LSPC Chair Jared Schablein had the following to say on the Governor’s comments: “COVID cases are on the rise across the Lower Shore right now. It is irresponsible, dangerous, and a total disregard for the well-being of Eastern Shore residents for Governor Larry Hogan to be encouraging people to travel here unvaccinated to vacation. To those on the Western Shore, we ask that you do not come here to use our vaccine supply or vacation when it is clearly not safe to do so. There are so still many people here on the Shore with pre-existing conditions, are over the age of 60, or are frontline workers that haven’t been called for their shots yet.” The Governor’s comment shows that he believes that Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths on the Eastern Shore are acceptable losses, and it is shameful.”
The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus also calls on our state delegation comprised of Senator Mary Beth Carozza, Senator Addie Eckardt, Delegate Sample Hughes, Delegate Chris Adams, Delegate Johnny Mautz, Delegate Charles Otto, Delegate Carl Anderton Jr, and Delegate Wayne Hartman to stand up for the safety of our residents, and our vaccine supplies by publicly disputing these ridiculous claims.
Lower Shore Progressive Caucus