Protecting the civil rights of Marylanders is of the utmost importance to ensure that our state is just and equitable for all people. Maryland has the highest incarceration rate of Black men in the nation and 70% of Maryland’s prison population is Black, compared to 31% of the state population. We cannot wait any longer for racial and criminal justice and a renewed commitment to public safety in Maryland.
Tom has fought for civil rights, racial justice, and police reform his entire career, and will continue to deliver for Maryland. As an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division beginning in 1989, Tom prosecuted some of the country’s most high-profile civil rights cases, including a hate crimes case in Texas involving a group of white supremacists who went on a deadly, racially motivated crime spree.
As Special Counsel to the late Senator Edward Kennedy, Tom served as the principal adviser on civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues. President Obama later appointed him to lead the Division where he began his career, serving as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
He continued the fight against discrimination by protecting voting rights, taking on system discrimination by police departments, prosecuting the first cases under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protecting students from bullying and harassment based on their race, gender, and sexual orientation, fighting against employment discrimination, and taking on other issues in order to advance equity and justice.
Under Tom’s leadership, the Civil Rights Division also protected the rights of the incarcerated by suing to improve their conditions and stopping abusive guards from using violent tactics. Shannon Sneed has also dedicated her career to combating crime and defending the rights of victims, including victims of police brutality. This team is ready to tackle these difficult issues in a difficult time and reset the balance on policing and public safety for communities across the state.
Tom knows that Maryland’s first step toward restoring public trust in policing and public safety is sustained executive leadership from the Governor’s Office. Tom has served as the top executive in departments at the local, state, and federal levels of government and has the experience necessary to serve Marylanders on day one in office. As Governor, Tom will demonstrate this sustained executive leadership by:
- Prioritizing the efficient deployment of law enforcement, including through leveraging Violence Intervention and Prevention Funding.
- Spearheading state-level coordination of data sharing across law enforcement agencies, especially for crimes that cut across regions, including drug, human, and weapons trafficking.
- Restoring the rights of formerly incarcerated Marylanders by ensuring that they have the right to vote, to sit on a jury of their peers, and to secure family-supporting jobs.
- Rectifying past wrongs by expunging the records of individuals who have been convicted of sex work and nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.
Parole & Probation
Our state’s parole and probation system is broken. There are more than 200,000 outstanding warrants across the state of Maryland, many of which are more than 10 years old. At the same time, individuals under the supervision of the Division of Parole and Probation continue to hurt our communities.
A report commissioned by the General Assembly in 2020 revealed that nearly half of murders in Baltimore were committed by individuals who were on parole or probation. Under Tom’s leadership, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division obtained nearly two times the number of hate crime convictions compared with his predecessors, including prosecutions from the Civil Rights Movement era that had been cold cases for decades.
Tom’s experience as both a prosecutor and a civil rights leader is exactly what we need to ensure that our parole and probation system embodies meaningful and restorative supervision and accountability. As Governor, Tom will:
- Empower agencies with the resources to increase staffing levels appropriate for comprehensive case management, supervision, and follow up.
- Prioritize supervision for more serious crimes and for individuals who have historically violated parole.
Mental & Behavioral Health
Individuals living with mental health issues are overrepresented in our criminal justice system. Studies have identified that the rate of mental health issues is three times higher in the criminal justice system than in the general population. For many of these individuals, incarceration was a result of a tragic mental health emergency, not an intent to commit a crime.
The Perez-Sneed administration is dedicated to ensuring that the people of Maryland get the mental health treatment and care that they need and ensuring that mental health emergencies are handled by mental health professionals. Part of this solution is providing healthcare, including mental healthcare, to all Marylanders. The Perez-Sneed administration will also work to ensure those currently in jail who are suffering from a mental health challenge have access to life saving mental health services.
Tom and Shannon have spent their careers fighting for healthcare and justice for our most vulnerable communities, and as a Baltimore City Councilwoman, Shannon fought to reduce the number of people with mental illness in our jails. By relieving our law enforcement officers of responding to individuals with mental health issues with police tactics, we will reduce violence at the hands of police, empower officers to reduce crime, and ensure that individuals get the help they need. As Governor, Tom will:
- Establish 24/7 mobile crisis teams and short-term stabilization centers across the state in partnership with local nonprofits and existing healthcare providers to provide both mobile and place-based treatment options for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
- Expand the use of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to connect individuals to substance use treatment and social services such as rental assistance, job training, and mental health programs instead of the criminal justice system.
- Ensure a third of community treatment teams are in place in police departments to de-escalate situations involving people in mental health crises and to divert people in mental health crises away from the criminal justice system and into treatment.
- Tom is also dedicated to ensuring the officers that keep our streets safe have access to the mental healthcare they need. Unfortunately, many law enforcement officers suffer from alcohol abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts.
Tragically, more officers die from suicide than they do in the line of duty. As Governor, Tom will ensure that every officer across the state has access to the mental health resources they need to do their job well by requiring mental health checks and trainings on healthy coping strategies for officers across the state and partnering with the Department of Health and the Maryland State Police to embed mental health professional within departments with the most need.
Ghost Guns & Gun Violence
Maryland has the 14th highest rate of gun homicides and gun assaults in the country. Devastatingly, Black Marylanders are 17 times more likely than white Marylanders to die by gun homicide.
Although Maryland has already implemented many common sense gun regulation measures over the years, gun violence still ravages our state. Over the past year, the prevalence of ghost guns, firearms which are assembled from parts and sold in kits on the Internet without background checks, has grown nearly tenfold in some counties. The Perez-Sneed administration will tackle the issue of ghost guns and gun violence by:
- Investing in data collection and analysis of ghost gun seizures and trafficking routes in order to identify and prosecute ghost gun manufacturers.
- Developing an emergency preparedness plan for mass violence, including mass shootings, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Emergency Management.
One of the best ways to reduce incarceration across our state is by offering attractive alternatives to crime. We must expand economic opportunities for Marylanders from all walks of life, including vulnerable youth and justice-involved individuals. As Governor, Tom will fight to ensure that all Marylanders have access to lawful, family-supporting jobs by:
- Creating an interagency reentry task force to streamline cooperation between workforce and corrections agencies, coordinate reentry services, and establish formal partnerships between private sector employers, facilities and reentry staff, workforce boards, and community-based organizations to build a framework that links currently incarcerated individuals with employment and wrap-around services pre-release.
- Leveraging academic excellence in the University of Maryland system and HBCUs to expand job readiness programs for formerly incarcerated people.
Establishing jail-based American Job Centers to better coordinate pre-release job-seeking services and connect those leaving incarceration with potential employers.
- Expanding in-demand pre-apprenticeship programs in state and juvenile correctional facilities and support programs like the Apprenticeship for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Pilot Program to help transition those leaving incarceration into full-time apprenticeships.
- Ensuring the successful implementation of legislation requiring each local correctional facility to develop and implement a policy for assisting incarcerated individuals to obtain identification (ID) cards issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) before release.
- Establishing programs within the Maryland Department of Commerce to support organizations, or partnerships between organizations, that provide business counseling and entrepreneurial development training to justice-involved individuals.
- Build demand for apprentices by requiring project labor agreements and community benefit agreements that promote local hiring and target disadvantaged groups in the labor market, including justice-involved individuals.
Tom believes in second chances. Unfortunately, for many young adults who are involved in the justice system, they never got a first chance. Maryland has a tragic history of trying minors as adults and handing down severe punishments for young people who have made mistakes.
Recent legislation has begun to correct for this trend, such as the Juvenile Restoration Act passed in the General Assembly in 2021. Tom has a proven track record of fighting for juvenile justice.
During his tenure at the Department of Justice, Tom sued schools suspected of facilitating the school-to-prison pipeline by unjustifiably punishing minority students. As Governor, Tom will continue the fight for juvenile justice by:
- Investing in youth-serving violence prevention nonprofits and integrating these nonprofits with free community college programs and trade schools.
- Passing legislation to require an attorney to be present when a minor is first interrogated by law enforcement and ensure that parents or guardians are notified when a minor is taken into custody.
- Raising the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction and ban the incarceration of minors for low-level offenses.
The cannabis industry has historically vilified communities of color and disproportionately incarcerated Black men across our country. Tom understands that we have a unique opportunity to legalize cannabis and ensure that this new economic opportunity benefits the individuals and communities most impacted by the criminalization of cannabis.
Currently, only two states (Massachusetts and Illinois) have enacted bills that help formerly incarcerated and disproportionately affected communities get economic access to the legal cannabis industry through equity business applications.
The Perez-Sneed administration will join these other states in paving the way towards equitable cannabis legalization by:
- Expunging and providing automatic record removal for individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related charges.
- Targeting tax revenue from the emerging cannabis industry to reinvestment in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs through targeted investments in HBCUs and immigrant-serving nonprofits, mental health resources, job training, and entrepreneurial support.
- Leading the nation in ensuring restorative justice in the cannabis industry by prioritizing individuals previously incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses for cannabis business licenses, license fee waivers, and business loans.