Criminal Justice Reform

Seventy percent of Maryland’s incarcerated individuals are African American, although African Americans comprise only 31 percent of the state’s population.  According to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union, this was the highest proportion of incarcerated African Americans in the entire country in 2014.  Formerly incarcerated individuals face numerous difficulties when they reenter society.  People of color, specifically African Americans, feel these collateral consequences more acutely and are given fewer job opportunities than their white counterparts.  These barriers to reentry increase the chance that these individuals are rearrested and reincarcerated.

Fair Chance Act

This Congress, I reintroduced H.R. 1076, the Fair Chance Act, which would, “ban the box” in federal hiring by restricting federal employers and contractors from asking about the criminal histories of applicants until the conditional offer stage.  It will give formerly incarcerated people a fair chance at a job and a piece of the American dream.

We have seen the positive impacts of the ban the box policy in 34 states, including Maryland.  We have also seen the positive impacts in over 150 cities that have done the same.  With the encouraging progress being made at the state and local level, the time is now to have a national conversation and to move towards opening up opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are committed to continuing to advance criminal justice reform and fair reentry policies that reduce recidivism, and I am glad that Congressman Doug Collins, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, has joined me in this bill

New Pathways Act

When individuals are released from prison, they often realize that their forms of photo identification are expired, lost, or stolen.  This presents many challenges to those seeking to return to a normal life and discovering that obtaining identification documents, such as a birth certificate, can be difficult and costly.

For Second Chance Month in April, I introduced H.R. 2232, the New Pathways Act, which would give formerly incarcerated people assistance in reentering their communities by providing them with identification upon release.  This aids them in securing housing, obtaining jobs, accessing social services, and applying for educational opportunities.  Being able to support themselves and their families is essential to reducing the chances that formerly incarcerated people return to the prison system.

Specifically, the New Pathways Act requires the Bureau of Prisons to provide a photo ID when an inmate is released from federal prison or community confinement.  This includes both citizens and lawful permanent residents.  The Bureau is responsible for obtaining identification documents for citizens, such as social security cards and certificates of naturalization, from federal and state agencies.  In addition, the Bureau provides forms and instructions to assist noncitizens in obtaining immigration documents.  The New Pathways Act is a commonsense way to reduce recidivism.

Redeem Act

During Second Chance Month, I also plan to reintroduce the REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act, which will give Americans convicted of nonviolent crimes a second chance at the American Dream.  The legislation will help keep kids who get into trouble out of a lifetime of crime and help adults who commit nonviolent crimes become more self-reliant and less likely to commit future crimes.  Specifically, the REDEEM Act would incentivize states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old, allow for sealing and expungement of juvenile records, restrict the use of juvenile solitary confinement, and offer adults a way to seal non-violent criminal records.

Witness Protection

This Congress, I plan to reintroduce the Witness Security & Protection Grant Program Act, which would provide competitive grants for five years to state, local, and tribal governments to establish or enhance witness assistance programs.  These funds would be used to address witness safety, relocation, financial and housing assistance, and other related services.  The bill also requires the U.S. Attorney General to collect data and best practices from the grantees and report this information back to Congress, states, and other relevant entities.  The Attorney General is also directed to ensure that, as practicable, grants are given to an equitable geographical distribution of programs throughout the country, including urban and rural areas.

I authored this legislation because there is a culture among young people and many areas that are beset by violent crime, that “snitching” is dishonorable.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We must have the ability to protect those who are willing to make their communities safer by reporting crimes and helping bring those responsible to justice.  Without the cooperation of the public, it is impossible for law enforcement to effectively do its job.  This bill will go a long way toward protecting witnesses, so that they might provide that much-needed cooperation. 


More on Criminal Justice Reform

August 16, 2019 Page

In the November 2018 election, the American people demanded that their representatives in Washington fight for them and for what affects their lives on a day-to-day basis.  They entrusted us to draft and pass legislation to do such vital things as protecting their healthcare, lowering their drug prices, guarding their right to vote, and making government accountable to them. Leaders in the House have introduced important legislation on these issues and more.

October 3, 2018 In The News

The congressman who could become President Donald Trump’s recurring political nightmare has photos on his office walls of himself with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, pathbreaking boxer Muhammad Ali and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.

Each were fighters of a sort, and Rep. Elijah Cummings says he is, too. The Baltimore Democrat’s battles usually involve pushing back as best he can on Trump administration policies and practices.

July 16, 2018 Press Release
(Washington, DC) — Today, members of Maryland’s Democratic Congressional delegation urged President Donald Trump to consider Wendi Winters – a victim of the mass shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom last month – for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is awarded by the President to men and women who have made meritorious contributions to the security of the United States, to world peace, to culture or to other significant endeavors.
February 15, 2018 Press Release

Baltimore, MD (February 15, 2018)—Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) released the following statement in response to the shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead and 15 injured:

June 29, 2016 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2016) – Today, Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings, Chris Van Hollen, Dutch Ruppersberger, and John Sarbanes (all D-MD) marked the National Day of Action for Commonsense Gun Violence Prevention at Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. The Representatives were joined by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, survivors of gun violence, families of victims, and faith leaders. 

June 22, 2016 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 22, 2016)—Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) issued the following statement after joining House Democrats to stage a sit-in against congressional inaction on gun violence:  

“Every year, tens of thousands of Americans die as a result of gun violence. In some states, firearms take more lives than car accidents.

“The American people are fed up with inaction and so am I. It is time for House Republicans to treat gun violence like the scourge on our country that it is. 

January 5, 2016 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (January 5, 2016) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) issued the following statement lauding President Obama’s announcement of executive actions to expand criminal background checks to prevent gun violence in America: 

September 9, 2015 Press Release
Washington, DC (September 9, 2015)—Today, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Peter T. King (R- New York), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania), Robin Kelly (D-Illinois), Dan Donovan (R- New York), and Tammy Duckworth (D- Illinois) are re-introducing a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own.
August 1, 2013 Press Release


Washington, D.C. (August 1, 2013) -- Today, U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (both D-MD) introduced the Witness Security and Protection Grant Program Act of 2013, legislation that directs the Attorney General to make competitive grants to state and local governments to establish and maintain short-term witness protection programs in cases involving homicides, violent felonies, serious drug offenses, gang related crimes, or organized crime.