Sen. Ben Cardin was in Baltimore yesterday talking up federal legislation he introduced in the wake of the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray. Cardin’s so-called BALTIMORE Act, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, is a push to improve police-community relations.
This is one of those bills where you can really see how far politicians are willing to stretch to make an acronym that works. It’s the Building And Lifting Trust In order to Multiply Opportunities and Racial Equality Act – the BALTIMORE Act.
But naming conventions aside, the bill is sweeping. It would reform law enforcement, sentencing, voting rights for ex-felons and make it easier for people getting out of prison to find jobs. Cardin told a roundtable of non-profit and foundation leaders the criminal justice system disproportionately hurts minorities.
“It’s got to end in this country,” the senator said. “There’s still profiling. We have discriminatory sentencing laws. When you take a look in Baltimore, in Maryland in the last 30, 40 years our prison population has quadrupled.”
Exactly how far the BALTIMORE Act will go remains in question. The bill has bipartisan support, Cardin said, but he warned that the current congress has not proven very progressive on criminal justice issues.
Cardin convened a group of community, faith and foundation leaders to discuss the challenges facing the city. The group discussed issues including jobs training, connecting community-based organization to funding, and the need for a long-term, comprehensive development plan to uplift West Baltimore’s most troubled communities.