Progressive Maryland and progressive, justice-seeking allies are demanding that every elected official who has received money from bail lobbyists return the money -- and refuse to sponsor bills that come from the bail lobbyists. Join more than 2,000 people who have signed a petition to make that happen.
/By Larry Stafford/ As the General Assembly session opened, Wednesday (Jan. 10), members of Progressive Maryland including myself and other community leaders held a news conference calling out Senator Nathaniel Oaks and other lawmakers for fattening their pockets with thousands of dollars from the bail industry in exchange for blocking bail reform. We are demanding that every elected official who has received money from bail lobbyists return the money -- and refuse to sponsor bills that come from the bail lobbyists.
This self-serving behavior is a total slap in the face to the people of Maryland, especially our most vulnerable communities. Despite the potentially fatal harm in holding people in jail because they can’t afford bail, many lawmakers are accepting bail blood money and neglecting their constituents in order to protect the industry’s cash flow. Our legal system is not a game for corporations to collect money every time someone goes to jail. These are our real lives. It’s time that this ends once and for all.
Money bail is the fuel driving the system of mass incarceration that seeks to swallow up Black, Brown and poor people whole. When our people are stuck in jail they run the risk of losing their families, homes, jobs and sometimes their lives. This impacts their emotional, mental and physical well-being and causes severe trauma that people have to continue to live with. Meanwhile, elected officials and bail agencies are racking up tens of thousands of dollars in cash off of poor, mostly Black, people who can’t afford their freedom, guaranteeing them a profit no matter the outcome of the case. As with almost every other aspect of the criminal justice system, racial disparities run rampant in the assignment of money bail. In Maryland, Black defendants were charged premiums of at least $181 million over five years while defendants of all other races combined were charged $75 million.
Yesterday, Maryland’s 2018 Gubernatorial annual report was released and so far it’s showing that Lexington National Insurance Company and Fred Frank Bail Bond are the leading contributors to Maryland electeds from the bail industry. In 2012, Lexington National collected over $120 million in premiums from families of people locked up. Some of the legislators who have historically received the largest amounts, Bobby Zirkin and Joseph Vallario just under Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, have yet to file their contributions reports. It’s likely that they’ll be reporting large donations from bail lobbyists this year mirroring previous years. Zirkin, who represents Baltimore County, has received nearly $80,000 in donations from blood bail money since 2001. Both Vallario (of Prince George’s) and Zirkin chair judiciary committees in the House and Senate, and both have the power to stand up to the bail industry and put an end to its exploitative practices in the communities that they represent. However, with the both of them being major beneficiaries of the bail industry, they've chosen profit over the people. They can no longer hide under the guise of being for the people while selling us off to the highest bidder.
Accepting money from an industry that exploits Black and poor families during their most difficult times causes apathy and distrust of politicians. Money bail keeps our people locked up and desperate to get out, while the industry, lawmakers and law enforcement officials are benefiting. This ends now!
Larry Stafford is executive director of Progressive Maryland