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Election 2022 Justice

AG Candidate Curran O’Malley Releases Criminal Justice Policy Proposals

Retired Judge Katie Curran O’Malley, a Democratic candidate for attorney general. Screenshot of campaign announcement video.

Katie Curran O’Malley (D) published her criminal justice policy proposals in the race for Maryland attorney general Tuesday morning, with an eye toward further police and prosecutor accountability and equitable reform for marginalized communities.

“As Attorney General, I will use all the tools at my disposal to bring about needed change and reform to our criminal system, while reducing violent crime across our state,” she said in a written statement. “We can, and must, do both.”

A retired Baltimore City District Court judge and Maryland’s former first lady, Curran O’Malley announced her candidacy to fill the seat of retiring Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) in early December. She is facing off against U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D), who served as lieutenant governor under her husband, former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

Her policy proposal to address criminal justice in Maryland targets eight key areas: violent crime, police and juvenile justice reform, domestic violence, cannabis legalization, sentence review for wrongful convictions, expanding the right to counsel and analyzing the disparate impacts of the justice system across demographics.

“This detailed plan shows that Katie has the bold ideas and substance to match her 30 years of experience working in the criminal justice system,” said Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery). “She understands that keeping people safe requires holding our criminal justice system accountable.”

Following the release of her criminal justice policy points, Curran O’Malley said that she plans to roll out policy proposals on domestic violence, reproductive rights, immigration reform and labor, among other topics, in the coming weeks.

“I’m running an issue-focused campaign and I want to make sure voters know where I stand,” she said.

Crackdown on gun violence

According to Curran O’Malley, general gun violence has increased by 36% and gun homicides by 53% since Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) entered office in 2015.

In an effort to quash firearms-related violence at a state and local level, Curran O’Malley proposed that her office would:

  • Pursue lawsuits against companies that manufacture unserialized and untraceable firearms, or ghost guns, and people found to be illegally trafficking firearms into the state;
  • Push for legislation to allow victims of gun violence to be able to sue gun manufacturers;
  • Prosecute white nationalist and domestic terrorism groups;
  • Join the Baltimore Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force to aid federal, state and local law enforcement in investigations against criminal organizations;
  • Audit the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ Division of Parole and Probation to confirm that there are enough agents available to track people convicted of violent crimes upon their release; and
  • Advocate for the statewide expansion of the Baltimore Safe Streets program.

“Once safe communities now struggle for economic advancement; social progress, and individual growth are stymied in the face of increased violence,” Curran O’Malley wrote. “Improving state and local coordination to identify and address the root causes of crime in our State will be a top priority of my office.”

Police accountability

Curran O’Malley’s policy proposal includes plans to build off of police reform legislation passed during the 2021 regular legislative session. That includes ensuring that law enforcement agencies don’t skirt reform to the Maryland Public Information Act under Anton’s Law by charging large fees or stalling requests for officer misconduct records.

She also proposed creating a legal curriculum to help train local police accountability boards and implementing advanced civil rights training for officers.

Additionally, Curran O’Malley said she would expand upon investigative authority given to the attorney general’s office under the 2021 legislation by pushing to also give the office primary authority to prosecute officers involved in civilian deaths.

Reduce domestic violence

Curran O’Malley’s proposal released Tuesday cited a Frontline report domestic violence-related shooting deaths in Maryland increased by 93% in Maryland from 2019 to 2020.

The Associated Press found that crimes of domestic violence rose by 31% last year in Baltimore, alone.

Curran O’Malley plans to release more robust policy proposals to tackle domestic violence in the coming weeks but preliminarily said that her office would focus on reducing the backlog of untested rape kits and increasing the availability of victims’ services across the state.

Legalization

Cannabis legalization is one of the top policy items for the 2022 session of the General Assembly.

Curran O’Malley said that would advocate for a bill that includes automatic expungement for nonviolent, cannabis-related convictions. She also believes cannabis tax revenues should go to improve communities most impacted by the war on drugs and provide equitable licensure for Black- and Brown-owned distributors.

“Black and Brown citizens bore a disproportionate burden in the enforcement of marijuana laws, and they must share in the wealth creation opportunities that legalization could lead to,” she wrote.

Juvenile justice reform

Calling the current juvenile justice system “deeply flawed,” Curran O’Malley wrote that she is in favor of two bills sponsored by Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) during the 2022 legislative session: the first, Senate Bill 165, seeks to abolish the practice of automatically charging minors in adult criminal court for certain crimes; the second, Senate Bill 53 or the Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act, would require law enforcement to notify a child’s legal guardian and allow them to consult with an attorney before they are questioned in custody.

Carter and Del. J. Sandra Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel), the House sponsor of the Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act, have endorsed Brown in the race for Attorney General.

Curran O’Malley supports expanding educational and rehabilitative programs for children and community programs to help families with reentry.

“Non-incarcerable solutions and rehabilitation need to be our state’s priority in our juvenile justice system,” she wrote.

Sentencing and Conviction Review

If elected, Curran O’Malley would assign more attorneys to help the Maryland Parole Commission review cases and work to establish a unit to independently investigate wrongful conviction claims.

Curran O’Malley said that she would also continue Frosh’s investigation into in-custody death determinations made under the tenure of former Maryland Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Fowler.

“This is an essential step towards accountability and preserving integrity in the prosecutorial [system],” she wrote.

Access to counsel

In her policy paper, Curran O’Malley wrote that she is in favor of expanding a statewide right to counsel policy in civil suits — particularly in immigration and housing courts.

Discrimination study

Finally, Curran O’Malley would establish a panel to study discrimination in the state’s justice system and identify laws that target marginalized communities.

“We need to identify and repeal laws that only serve to perpetuate systemic biases in the criminal justice system,” she wrote.

Additionally, the panel would be charged with studying the impact of Maryland’s social services agencies to evaluate if they are successfully reducing crime and keeping recidivism rates low.

“Warehousing offenders in violence-filled penitentiaries designed to punish, rather than reform, only fuels the cycle of violent crime,” said Curran O’Malley. “We can reduce long-term incarceration rates and violence in Maryland by making firm commitments to truly rehabilitative pathways to justice.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify that Katie Curran O’Malley supports cannabis legalization. An earlier version of the story indicated she supported decriminalization policies, which are more limited.