BALTIMORE, Maryland — They called him Mandela. Some inmates knew it was a nickname. Some didn’t. Either way, it didn’t matter much to Walter Lomax. He appreciated the comparison. He was a stern man —

The Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative is a four phase initiative. Our mission is to advocate and promote humane and sensible criminal justice and sentencing policies for those incarcerated long term in Maryland prisons. The aims and objectives of our initiative are to advocate for policies so that individuals who have been incarcerated for many years may receive meaningful consideration for release.  We believe that through actions of restoration, redemption and reconciliation, we can create long-term systemic change.

 

The purpose of this initiative is to advocate on behalf of those serving long term sentences so these men and women have a meaningful opportunity to regain their freedom and contribute to the communities from which they came.  The initiative began in 1995 when policies changed in the Maryland Division of Correction for persons serving long term incarceration, and parole eligible life sentences such that parole for this group was effectively eliminated. Concerned citizens, advocates, family members, and friends have advocated tirelessly to change the parole policy.

 

In May 1999 the first ever all day Seminar to bring members from the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of Maryland State Government together was scheduled.  The purpose was to establish policies, and if necessary, change law in this area. However, because of unforeseen circumstances the event did not take place, and was canceled. It was again scheduled for December 2001, but the event instead turned into a photo op and general discussion by DOC officials.

 

The Seminar was rescheduled to take place in September 2006, but the tragic death of a correctional officer at the Maryland House of Correction, and its subsequent closing, canceled the event once again. Finally, in 2008, sponsors, partners, family members, and friends decided to host the event on the outside, and Phase I took place May 14, 2008 at the Cork Gallery, hosted by Ms. Laurie Bezold, Director of Fusion Partnership Inc.  Phase II of the initiative was held in September 2008 at Morgan State University in cooperation with the Social Work Department, chaired by Dr. Anna McPhatter.  

 

Phase III  started January 10, 2009. This event was also partnered with Dr. Anna McPhatter and the Social Work Department at MSU. We listed this event as a ‘Town Hall’ meeting. The objective was to consolidate the support system, inform family members, friends and the general public of legislation to be introduced in the up coming general assembly session, and discuss the issue of long-term incarceration on family members.

 

Phase IV began with our having legislation introduced, Senate Bill 900 in 2009; SB-901 and HB-940 were introduced in 2010. In 2011 we received a margin of success with the passage of SB-172 and HB-302. This legislation, though positive, (gives any setting governor 180 days to either deny, approve, or take no action in parole recommendations, in which case the parole commissions’ decision become final.) does not address our over all concern, which is the politicization of the parole process. We hosted two additional town hall meetings at Morgan State University, January 5, and September 28, 2013, again hosted by Dr. Anna McPhatter to further our advocacy. We will continue our efforts, as we did in 2012 advocating on behalf of SB-584 and 492, minors (Juveniles), and people convicted under the felony murder law in hope of total removal of the governor from the parole process, and we need your support as we move forward to correct this inherent miscarriage of justice, This was why in 2014 HB-388 crossed filed in the Senate SB-953 Life Imprisonment – Parole Approval, were necessary (both bills failed in committee) As we move forward, we need your continued support.

 

The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky once reflected, ‘The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’ Entering into any of our prisons, is to witness mans inhumanity to man.  I would also suffice it to say, that the degree of civilizations in our society can also be judged by how we treat other human being. ‘We will never give in, nor will we ever give  up’ seeking this change.

 

Sincerely,

Walter Lomax, Project Director,

Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative

waltermandalalomax@hotmail.com;mrji4phases@yahoo.com;mrji.org

mandalaenterprise.org;443-413-6076

 

 

 

Testimony on Senate Bill

Position: SUPPORT Senate Bill SB-694/Crossed filed in House HB-723 Inmates-Life Imprisonment-Parole Reform

 

February 15, 2017

To: Senate Judicial Proceedings 

From: Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative

 

We have advocated for many years, (technically since 1993) for a change in the current policy. We’ve said that if the men and women serving parole eligible life sentences were to...

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ACLU Lawsuit: Juvenile Life Sentences Unconstitutional

This week, the ACLU filed suit against Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and others in his administration. The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff, MRJI, and three juveniles serving parole eligible life sentences. The suit alleges that juveniles sentenced to life with the possibility of parole have been serving de facto life sentences without parole due to the political ramifications of releasing any...

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"Unblocking the Exit" Screening Held at Morgan State University

Dr. Anna McPhatter, Dean of the School of Social Work at Morgan State University, hosts the screening of "Unblocking the Exit" documentary. 

The event was held Saturday, January 9, 2016 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Morgan State University Student Center,

1700 E. Coldspring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21251 - Room 210

Read Walter Lomax's opening remarks and view the documentary below:

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Report to support parole reform

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