ANNAPOLIS, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Across the country, people gathered for the National Day of Empathy on Thursday.
The day signifies a call to action for the need to reform the criminal justice system. Every state and the District are taking part in a movement called “Cut 50,” which is an effort to reduce the prison population by 50 percent.
According to Bureau of Justice statistics, 2.2 million people were behind bars in the United States in 2016, which is more than any other nation in the world. To put that in perspective, the incarceration rate is 655 inmates per 100,000 people, which is 7 percent higher than the rate of the next closest country, El Salvador.
The Maryland Justice Project is looking to change those statistics by helping people once they leave detention centers. The group was inside the Maryland House on Friday to lobby for House Bill 0994, which would prevent employers from asking job seekers if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime.
"It's hard. It's really hard. I have been fortunate that I have been, I have gained second chances. I'm gainfully employed. Paying taxes,” Monica Cooper with the Maryland Justice Project said. “People like myself returning home are looking for normality. To get up, to go to work every day. To go to places with their children. To take vacations. And to do those things that people who have not broken societal mores are doing."
Cooper said the Maryland Justice Project will continue to fight for criminal justice reform and the group plans to be back in Annapolis next year to continue the fight in the legislature.