Today the Baltimore Sun published an op-ed by Ariela Migdal of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and Deborah Jeon of the ACLU of Maryland. Ariela and Deborah write about the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis’s policy that bans certain individuals from being on or near public housing property, even to visit their families. Ariela and Deborah tell the stories of two of our clients, Dalanda Moses and Glenda Smith, two women whose families have been torn apart by the policy, and write:
Families have the right to make decisions about their own homes, but the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis unlawfully bans certain individuals from being on or near public housing in Annapolis even when they are invited guests of tenants. This policy doesn’t promote public safety. On the contrary, it aggravates social problems by separating people from their families.
The housing authority maintains a list of more than 500 people who are banned from being on or near public housing property. The agency claims that all of these people are a danger to the community, but many of them have never been convicted or even charged with a crime, while others committed minor offenses years ago and have long since served their time. Still, they can’t get off the list. And if they violate the ban, they are arrested and prosecuted for trespassing. Residents who allow banned family members into their homes are subject to eviction.
In an article in the Annapolis Capital about the filing of the case, the Annapolis police defended the banned list:
Police and public-safety officials stress the benefits of the list, however.
It lets them round up trouble-makers before they can break the law, they said. Those trespassing arrests mean fewer assault, robbery and even murder arrests, they said.
“It’s one of the most effective tools we have of keeping undesirables out of the community,” said Detective John Lee, chief steward of the police union.
It is precisely the use of the policy in this manner that is problematic. Rounding up people who the police assume will commit crimes is a clear violation of civil liberties. People whose only “crime” is entering the property while banned are not a danger to the community.
To learn more about this case and watch videos of our clients, go to www.aclu.org/housingban.