By Ari Berman
Freddie Gray’s neighborhood in Baltimore had the highest incarceration rate of anywhere in the city. More than 450 adults from Sandtown-Winchester are in state prison, and one in four juveniles were arrested from 2005 to 2009. These statistics are indicative of a broader crisis in the city—a third of Maryland’s prison population is from Baltimore.
The problem of mass incarceration has been all over the news recently. One overlooked aspect of the story is how the legacy of mass incarceration denies equal citizenship long after the offenders have paid their debts to society. Nationally, 1 in 13 African-Americans—2.2 million people—are prohibited from casting a ballot because of felon disenfranchisement laws.
Earlier this month the Maryland legislature passed a bill automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, allowing them to vote while on parole or probation. The legislation would restore voting rights to nearly 40,000 people and be particularly beneficial to African-Americans, who make up 30 percent of the state’s population but account for 65 percent of those denied voting rights. The bill awaits the signature of Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan, who has said “I believe in second chances.”