Brandon Ruben ’16 wrote an op-ed, published in The Washington Post, examining the criminal justice system and its operations after the pandemic, and why this is the time to think outside of the box.
Before the death of George Floyd under the knees of police galvanized global protests, the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee addressed Maryland’s criminal justice system amid the novel coronavirus. Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, underscored with regret that criminal courts would not be back to “business as usual” anytime soon. Committee Chairman William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) suggested that returning to business as usual is the wrong dream. “As long as it’s not to the detriment of public safety,” he mused aloud, “maybe the pandemic has presented us with some opportunity to do some outside-of-the-box thinking.”
As the recent demands to fund infrastructures of care instead of police make plain, Smith’s words were prescient. I am a public defender in Prince George’s County. Here and elsewhere in the United States, returning to business as usual for people accused of crimes — and for many of those who accuse them — would be a nightmare.
What, then, is “the box” of which Smith speaks? And how do we “think outside” of it?