Featuring ACLU Experts on Rights of Incarcerated Marylanders, Immigrants’ Rights, and Voting
BALTIMORE, MD – COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire across the nation and in Maryland. How our government responds to the crisis will determine how many lives are saved. This episode of the Thinking Freely podcast gives a glimpse into how the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland is responding to the global pandemic and the work we are doing along with partners to ensure our State’s response is guided by the expertise of public health officials without sacrificing our civil liberties. The conversation features Sonia Kumar, Senior Staff Attorney, Amy Cruice, Legal Program Manager and Director of our Election Protection Program, and Nick Taichi Steiner, Staff Attorney.
Thinking Freely focuses on Maryland’s most pressing issues and gives our residents ways that they can make an impact on lives. Last month’s episode centered on resources women need after exiting the legal justice system. In this month’s episode, the ACLU will address the COVID-19 crisis and what demands we have for our elected officials. During these trying times, we must keep defending our civil rights and civil liberties and protect the most vulnerable populations, including immigrants and those caught in the legal justice system, as well as Maryland voters.
Nick Taichi Steiner said: “In an immigration detention center, in a jail, in a prison: These are pretty much the worst possible places for an outbreak to happen because everyone is so close together and contained in one space.” Like people in jails and prisons, people in immigration detention centers live in close quarters and are not provided with sanitary spaces and proper medical care. Reducing the number of people in Maryland’s detention centers is vital to maintaining the health and safety of immigrants and people in prisons and jails, as well as the community at large.
Sonia Kumar said: “Every moment really matters to flatten the curve of the spread. It’s not a matter of if the virus is going to be getting into our facilities, it’s a matter of when. That’s why it’s so important for us to be doing everything possible to limit the number of people who are in our facilities.” Guided by the advice of public health experts, taking every step possible to avoid adding to the number of people incarcerated in any kind of detention keeps the communities inside and outside safer. It is essential to keep as many people out of crowded, unsanitary spaces and out of harm’s way.
Amy Cruice said: “While we applaud the State Board of Elections’ embracing voting by mail, we also understand that some people need to have an in-person option. These include voters with disabilities, voters needing language assistance, anyone who doesn’t receive their ballot (due to unstable housing, displacement during COVID-19), voters who can’t register due to no internet or ID, and inactive voters who don’t receive a ballot.” Completely eliminating in-person options creates barriers to voting for many groups of people. The protections of disability rights laws are not suspended during a crisis and every person deserves a chance to vote – meaning our elections must be accessible to all.
Thinking Freely informs Marylanders on what is going on locally and provides them action items that they can take to support this vital work and, during the coronavirus pandemic, save lives. Listen to this episode of Thinking Freely and learn about how you can help in your community! Listen here.