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Baltimore Stops Prosecuting Drug Possession, Prostitution Charges in New COVID-19 Measure

Michael Foust | Contributor | Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Baltimore Stops Prosecuting Drug Possession, Prostitution Charges in New COVID-19 Measure

Baltimore Stops Prosecuting Drug Possession, Prostitution Charges in New COVID-19 Measure

Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that Baltimore will no longer be prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, certain traffic violations deemed "minor" and other "low-level" offenses.

The city had halted the prosecution of these offenses in 2020 in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Baltimore's prisons. This week, officials announced that the city would adopt the change long term, The Christian Post reports.

Mosby's office said in a statement that the changes resulted in "a decrease in arrests, no adverse impact on the crime rate, and address the systemic inequity of mass incarceration."

According to data by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the move also seemingly led to a 39 percent decrease in incarcerations and an 18 percent reduction in the incarcerated population as a whole.

Mosby's office also asserted that Baltimore's violent crime has dropped by 20 percent and that property crime has dropped by 36 percent. The press release further stated that "The data showed that 911 calls about drug use, public intoxication and sex work (a proxy for public concern) did not increase following the policy; rather, from March – December 2020, there was a 33 percent reduction in calls mentioning drugs and a 50 percent reduction in calls mentioning sex work compared to the prior two years. Further, of the nearly 1,500 individuals with quashed warrants or dismissed charges, only 0.4 percent (five individuals) were arrested for any other crime during the eight-month period following the policy change. (Results of the study are preliminary and subject to change as the analysis of remaining cases and adjustment for other factors are ongoing.)"

The press release also notes that the data shows that "There is no public safety value in prosecuting these offenses. Prosecution of these offenses would be counterproductive given the limited resources we have to prosecute crimes that threaten public safety.  These offenses are often discriminately enforced and thus hinder equity in, and breed mistrust of, the criminal justice system."

Baltimore's mayor, Brandon Scott, reportedly approved the move, stating, "Reimagining public safety in Baltimore requires innovation and collaborative effort. I applaud State's Attorney Mosby's Office for working with partners to stem violence in Baltimore and ensure residents have the adequate support services they deserve."

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Greg Pease

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.