Paradigm Shift

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House Bill 846

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SB 694/17 JPR CF SB 249

By: Delegates Queen, Anderson, Conaway, Dumais, Gibson, Gutierrez, Hayes, Hill,

Kelly, J. Lewis, Moon, Morales, Proctor, Sanchez, Sydnor, Tarlau, and


Introduced and read first time: February 2, 2018

Assigned to: Judiciary


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Guest Commentary:Remove Politics from the Parole Process

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SB-249 Inmates-Life Imprisonment- Parole Reform


Inmates-Life Imprisonment- Parole Reform

This legislation is not about challenging this governors authority, nor his willingness to seek a solution to this existing problem. It is about the changing landscape of our criminal justice system, and facing the reality of those changes. When this body passed the 180 days statute in 2011, we all felt that it was a step in the right direction. We now know, especially when Governor O’Malley denied all the recommendation that came before his office shortly after the legislation took effect, that it was politically motivated. We are faced with the Willie Horton syndrome, no political figure will admit it, but it is a reality. This legislation will relieve the governor of that responsibility, and place it where it belongs, in the hands of parole commissioners who are experts in this field; they use a thorough process, vetting these individuals decades or more.

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SB0249 Inmates - Life Imprisonment - Parole Reform





Inmates - Life Imprisonment - Parole Reform


We will be hosting a Press Conference and Rally on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis February 1, at 12:00 PM. Try to be there around 11:30. Possible speakers are Delegate Cheryl Glenn, Senator’s Deloris Kelly and Nathaniel McFadden, and Delegates Pam Queen, and Curt Anderson



In the Senate - Hearing 2/01 at 2:00 p.m.


All Sponsors:


By: Senators Kelley, McFadden, Astle, Benson, Conway, Currie, Lee, Muse, Nathan–Pulliam, Robinson, Smith, and Young

Assigned to: Judicial Proceedings



·         Summary



Repealing certain provisions that provide that inmates serving a term of life imprisonment may be paroled only with the Governor's approval, subject to certain provisions; requiring certain parole decisions to be transmitted to the Governor under certain circumstances; authorizing the Governor to disapprove certain parole decisions in a certain manner; providing that if the Governor does not disapprove a certain parole decision in a certain manner within a certain time period, the decision becomes effective; etc.

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Talking Points:

Talking Points:

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Profiles in Courage/Collateral Consequence

On June 2, 1993, Rodney Stokes who was in the work release and family leaves programs committed murder suicide. On June 3, 1993 all persons in those programs serving parole eligible life sentences were removed from those programs, and returned to medium security facilities. Even after maintaining excellent institutional records to qualify for those programs, they are being punished for a senseless crime that no one could have predicted. To add insult to injury, in September 1995, the setting governor announced that he would no longer consider any parole request for ‘Lifers’, and instituted a policy that ‘Life means Life.’ (All of these individuals are, or were serving parole eligible life sentences.) This is why the legislation introduced SB-249 & its companion’s bill in the House should be voted on favorably.

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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 be released they would not be a threat to public safety, and would become assets to their communities, and not liabilities. In 2012 the Unger decision was decided, allowing new trials for those convicted before 1980 under faulty jury instructions.  They were all parole eligible lifers. Since May 2013, over 160 have been released with not one single recidivist.  Calculate the math; 160 X approximately, 38,000 dollars a year, that’s $18,924,000 dollars saved by their releases.

What is even more remarkable are those who have been released through the courts without the Unger decision, we know that there are over 20. That’s another $2,280.000.


The fiscal note for our legislation to implement the change does not cost the state anything.  There are over at least 47 people still waiting to be released under Unger, yet those who do not have the Unger decision remain in prison because of politics.


An interesting fact about some of the people released under Unger, 24 of them had been recommended for parole by the parole commission, and denied parole in 2012 by former Governor O’Malley.


Using risk assessments, and best practices, this group of people should be at the top of the list. They are now saving the taxpayers of Maryland millions of dollars. The question becomes, how much time served is enough? Especially if the individual(s) pose no risk to public safety, and can be assets to society.   


If we first look at retribution, punishing a person for doing something wrong, incapacitating them to protect public safety, using this as a deterrent to crime; secondly we must look at rehabilitation, or rather habilitation, to change a behavior.  If this has been accomplished than we must ask ourselves, what is the use of continued punishment? To continue to keep people locked up for circumstance that will never change,(the nature of the crime)  even when they have demonstrated they have changed, is not sound judgment,  nor fiscally responsible, when these taxpaying dollars can be spent more productively.


More people serving parole eligible life sentences have been released under the Unger decision in over three years, then any of the last seven governors released during their administrations: Governor Mandel released 92 during his term in office. Governor Hughes released 64, Governor Schaefer released 25, Governor Glendening, paroled none, Governor Ehrlich commuted five sentences, but paroled none, and Governor O’Malley commuted 3, but paroled none. For the past twenty years no one serving a parole eligible life sentence has been parole out right in Maryland. Governor Hogan has commuted some sentences, but have not paroled out right any..


These tax paying dollars can be spent far more wisely, and the list of speaker who will testify at today’s hearing will lay out the case why this legislation should be voted favorably. 


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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 lifers in the last twenty years.

See articles from the Baltimore Sun and Courthouse News Service detailing the lawsuit below:

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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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