Contact: Robin Campbell
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New Interactive Report Highlights How Disinvestments Impact Baltimore Communities

(Washington, DC) — As Baltimore and Maryland leadership focus on how best to tackle stubbornly high levels of violence, a new interactive online report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) shows Baltimore neighborhoods most impacted by the criminal legal system are also among the city’s most disadvantaged across a broad range of indicators. The disparities fall along racial lines, JPI researchers found, and can be traced to policy decisions that have led to chronic disinvestment in the city’s Black communities.

“At a time when people are increasingly concerned about crime, this research suggests officials have been making the wrong kinds of public safety investments and, as a result, missing a key opportunity to help communities realize meaningful levels of safety and well being,” says Paul Ashton, Interim Executive Director at JPI.

The Right Investment 2.0: How Maryland can create safe and healthy communities combines data from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance, a research organization affiliated with the University of Baltimore, to reveal how neighborhoods with the highest number of residents in state prisons experience the lowest levels of community wellbeing as measured by an array of more than 60 indicators covering employment, education, health, housing and more. The study is a follow up to JPI’s 2015 report, The Right Investment, which found that the state of Maryland annually spends nearly $288 million to incarcerate people from the city of Baltimore—as much as $17 million each year in the Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park community alone—yet none of those resources reach the communities in need.

Tracking the Disparities

Nearly 32 percent of people in Maryland prisons come from the city of Baltimore, which comprises just 10 percent of the state’s population, The Right Investment reported in 2015. Nearly one in four of these incarcerated people come from only five neighborhoods.

Using an interactive map on JPI’s website, visitors to The Right Investment 2.0 can compare neighborhoods with the least representation in the state’s prisons to those with the most across a range of indicators. One can see, for example, that in Southwest Baltimore, which has 300 former residents in state prison, 29 percent of the population has less than a GED education and nearly one in five residents (18.5 percent) are without health insurance. Conversely, in Greater Roland Park / Poplar Hill, which has just one former resident in state prison, 1.2 percent of residents have less than a GED and only 3.2 percent are uninsured. Similarly, in another high-impact community, Greater Rosemont, which has 325 former residents living in state prisons, the unemployment rate is five times the city’s unemployment rate overall.

The following chart comparing two neighborhoods across a sample of indicators provides a broader sense of the disparities.


Population Incarceration Rate (per 100k) Per Capita Income Life Expectancy (yrs)


Rate (per 10k)

Greater Rosemont


2,107.1 $37.5k 69.6 7
Greater Roland Park / Poplar Hill 15,424 13.7 $125.9k 83.6 0


While these findings do not prove a causal relationship between high rates of incarceration and indicators of neighborhood distress, they point to a strong relationship.

“Based on these findings, and given what other research has shown about the disruptive impact of mass incarceration, it is reasonable to consider that the hundreds of millions that Maryland spends each year to incarcerate people from certain Baltimore neighborhoods might actually be making conditions there worse,” says Keith Wallington, Director of Advocacy at JPI.

Investment Choices Matter

JPI’s interactive map shows that many of the disparities revealed in The Right Investment 2.0 can be traced back to redlining laws enacted more than a century ago to discourage investment in 12 predominantly African American neighborhoods. These neighborhoods consequently experienced substandard investments in education, economic development, and infrastructure until well after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1966. The result was not only in concentrated poverty and poor health outcomes, but also in increasing rates of crime and incarceration.

However, in six of these 12 communities Baltimore’s leadership broke the redlining cycle by investing tax revenue, offering low-interest construction loans, and establishing homesteading programs. Today, these six communities account for just 3 percent of the city’s prison footprint (166 individuals). The other six neighborhoods account for 20 percent (1,196 individuals). The six communities that benefitted from targeted investment also have better outcomes across indicators for neighborhood wellness.

“Safe, healthy, and strong communities are not the product of happenstance. They reflect intentional decisions by civic leaders and community stakeholders on where and what forms of resources to invest, “ concludes Monica Cooper, Executive Director of the Maryland Justice Project.

Recommendations from the Right Investment 2.0

  • Develop formalized communication pathways and partnerships between community groups, city and county leaders, state government, and private capital.
  • Work with community partners to identify investment priorities.
  • Establish sustainable funding sources to ensure support for both immediate and long-term investment.
  • Invest in community partners.
  • Identify an intermediary organization to liaise between agencies, funding, and community partners


Sample Highlights from The Right Investment 2.0

  • Health – Greater Rosemont (325 incarcerated residents) ranks last in all but one of the health mortality indicators analyzed by JPI researchers. The community’s rate of prostate cancer mortality was 5 times the rate of the city’s least impacted community.
  • Employment – Baltimore City’s overall unemployment rate is 2.5 percent. South Baltimore, Greater Roland Park / Poplar Hill and Canton all have unemployment rates below the city average. Greater Rosemont has an unemployment rate 5 times the rate of the city.
  • Finance – The median annual household income in Canton is $134,000. The median annual household income in Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park (277 incarcerated residents) is $26,000. A $98,000 difference.