The following is SWASC’s partial Testimony in support of Bill #HB 786 submitted  by Moya Atkinson.

Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement, a chapter of Social Welfare Action Alliance, welcomes this opportunity to testify. Our mission is to replace solitary confinement with humane alternatives.  

Social workers and other health professionals find themselves aware of—or even witness to—abusive practices that challenge their obligations to their profession’s ethical code to challenge social problems and injustice, and to respect the dignity and worth of every individual.

Such abuses are described in “Beyond Incarceration: Lock Down for Persons with Disabilities, an Investigation by Disability Rights, Maryland, 2017”. The following findings are summarized, with examples: “Individuals with mental illness in segregation drank from their toilets, smeared feces, banged their heads, cut themselves, heard voices, attempted suicide, were subjected to use of force, and do not get access to programs….

“Maryland uses segregation excessively, Individuals with mental illness are disproportionately placed in segregation. DPSCS under-identifies disability. Individuals with disabilities are subject to discrimination. Insufficient mental health and correctional staffing and programming contribute to reliance on segregation.

“DPSCS returned over $30 million of its budget because of vacancies last fiscal year and has significant staffing shortage. NBCI psychology department positions mostly vacant. NBCI has no recreation therapists or substance abuse counselors.”

The passage of HB 786 will provide standards which allow those in the prison system, i.e. those people awaiting trial or already convicted, and the health professionals whose purpose is to care for their needs – to have the means to reform the existing wasteful, destructive, broken system. The recommended changes in the law provide a path to treatment, rehabilitation and a future.