On Friday, November 18th, 2005, from 8:30 AM–2:00 PM, the University of Maryland School of Law will host a working conference that will bring together various community stakeholders – including public defenders, prosecutors, legal services attorneys, legislative advocates, corrections personnel, reentry service providers and representatives from various community groups – to brainstorm the myriad issues surrounding the reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals into Maryland’s communities. Specifically, the conference will focus on the intersection between the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and reentry.
This is a particularly urgent time for this conference, as approximately 9,600 individuals are released from Maryland’s prisons annually, as these individuals disproportionately return to underresourced communities and as numerous groups in Maryland are working on reentry issues. The vast majority of these individuals confront numerous reentry-related hurdles, many of which are imposed by the collateral legal sanctions that attach to criminal convictions. These sanctions, rooted in both federal and state law, include temporary and permanent ineligibility for public or government-assisted housing and federal student aid; various employment related restrictions; disqualification from military service; civic disqualifications including felon disenfranchisement and ineligibility for jury service; and, for non-citizens, deportation.
As a result, issues relating to reentry are complex and interrelated, as they range from sentencing policies, conditions of confinement, coordinated criminal/civil legal services, public benefits, housing, employment, child custody/support and civil rights. This complexity demands flexible and multifaceted strategies.
Among the topics that will be discussed at the conference are: struggles that recently released individuals confront during the reentry process in Maryland; potential ways for legal services providers, both at the front and back ends of the criminal justice system, to address some of these issues; the ways in which various correctional and community-based programs in Maryland have addressed reentry issues; potential legislative strategies aimed towards recognizing the interconnections between collateral consequences and reentry; and an overview of steps taken in other states to address these issues.
The goal of the conference is to devise strategies and to reveal potential synergies among legal and non-legal organizations for holistically exploring and working through these issues together. To help achieve this goal, the conference will conclude with lunch that will feature a keynote address aimed to foster ideas for collaboration.