Opinion: Incoming Lawmaker Runs 70 Miles to Spotlight Challenges of Re-entry from Prison

Lorig Charkoudian (in pink shirt) finishing her 70-mile run across the state, trailed by, among others, Baltimore City Council members Kristefer Burnett (white hat) and John Bullock (center) and Del. Cory McCray (gray sweatshirt).

There is a growing movement around a 70-mile stretch of Maryland pavement that can only be characterized as a hopeful restlessness paired with an enduring love of community. In its fifth year, the annual Community Mediation Maryland Run for Re-entry celebrated its most powerful weekend yet.

The series of events and run is built around a two-day, 70-mile run from the prisons in Hagerstown to the Baltimore Community Mediation Center, led by Lorig Charkoudian, executive director of Community Mediation Maryland and a candidate for the House of Delegates in Montgomery County. Beginning early Saturday morning in the rain, she stopped 47 miles later in rural Howard County, woke up Sunday morning, and completed the rest of her 23 miles.

A true Maryland October day, the weather varied. Charkoudian’s terrain varied as well — ranging from South Mountain to navigating traffic in the City of Baltimore.

The sheer physical feat of running 70 difficult miles across five Maryland counties and Baltimore City has been repeated five times.This run was created in 2014 for two purposes: to raise awareness of the challenges of re-entry into society hundreds for formerly incarcerated community members, and to raise money for the re-entry mediation program, which helps returning citizens and their families make this transition.

This year, elected officials, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D), Del. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), Baltimore City Council members Brandon M. Scott (D), Kristerfer Burnett (D) and John Bullock (D), Frederick City Alderman Ben MacShane (D) and Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) stood with community leaders in Hagerstown, Frederick, and Baltimore to unite once again for re-entry mediation.

Re-entry mediation is a research-proven tool that is utilized in Maryland prisons to reduce recidivism. When mediation occurs while an individual is incarcerated, relationships can be strengthened pre-release. Charkoudian’s annual run is combined with rally-style events in Hagerstown, Frederick, and Baltimore.

Re-entry mediation participants, returning citizens, mediators, and advocates come together, share their experiences, and echo the call for criminal justice reform. This annual event highlights the re-entry work that Community Mediation Maryland currently operates in nearly every state facility and a number of local detention centers.

The CMM Re-entry Mediation Program is partially funded by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

CMM designed this run to raise funds to cover the transportation costs for those who seek mediation with their incarcerated loved ones. For those from Baltimore who are moved to Hagerstown, families are separated by 70 miles or more. Appropriately, Charkoudian began the run at the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC), a Maryland institution that houses over 2,050 adult incarcerated men. Her run ended at the Baltimore Community Mediation Center on Greenmount Avenue.

Over the weekend, supporters followed Charkoudian on social media, joined her for portions of the run, or attended the events. Charkoudian is one of three Democrats — and the only nonincumbent — running for a seat in the House of Delegates in Montgomery County’s District 20. The Democrats there face no opposition in November, so she is guaranteed a slot in Annapolis.

–KATIE NASH

Katie Nash is a board member of Community Mediation Maryland. 

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