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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Taking Politics Out of Parole

Taking Politics Out of Parole

This is the ling to the broadcast:



Maryland is one of the only states in the county that permits a governor to reject or veto a parole commission’s recommendations.  We take another look at parole reform in this hour with Tessa Hill-Aston, president of Baltimore’s NAACP, and Walter Lomax, of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative (MRJI), who served 39 years in prison for a wrongful conviction. Here is a link to the report, "Still Blocking the Exit," written by the ACLU of Maryland and the MRJI.

Plus, how much is Maryland spending to incarcerate people from Baltimore City?Marc Schindler, from the Justice Policy Institute, shares new findings on how much is spent on incarcerating Baltimore residents. 


HB-303 has been rescheduled for Friday, February 20th, the day after SB-111 which is being heard on the 19th

RESCHEDULED: Media Advisory rescheduled for February 19, 2015
News conference at 11 a.m. on HB 303, Inmates – Life Imprisonment – Parole Reform, in Lawyers Mall on Feb. 19
Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 443-310-9946,
Walter Lomax, Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, 443-413-6076,
ANNAPOLIS — Advocates will join with state lawmakers on Thursday, Feb. 19 for a rally and press conference between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. in an effort to pass bills in this legislative session that would depoliticize the process governing what happens to those individuals given parole-eligible sentences and who are recommended for release. They will be joined by individuals released under the decision in Unger v. State of Maryland, which held that flawed jury instructions given by judges prior to 1980 denied defendants the right to a fair trial.
A new report, "Still Blocking the Exit," released in January, tells the stories of many individuals given parole-eligible life sentences who have been denied release despite being recommended for it.
Senators Nathaniel McFaddenLisa Gladden, and Anthony Muse, as well as Delegates Jill Carter and Curt Anderson are scheduled to participate in the rally and news conference. They will be joined by advocates Walter Lomax of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, Toni Holness of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, and Keith Wallington of the Justice Policy Institute.
WHAT: News conference at which state lawmakers, state organization leaders, and individuals who have been released from incarceration following the decision in Unger v. State of Maryland will talk about why the parole process for those serving parole-eligible life sentences must be depoliticized. 
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 19; rally between 10:30 and 11:30 am; news conference at 11 a.m. ET
WHERE: Lawyer’s Mall, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, MD
WHO: Senators Nathaniel McFaddenLisa Gladden and Anthony Muse
Delegates Jill Carter and Curt Anderson 
Walter Lomax, Founder and Director, Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative
Toni Holness, Staff Attorney/Policy Associate, ACLU of Maryland
Keith Wallington, Project Manager, Justice Policy Institute 
Individuals released under the Unger decision

Action Alert: News the main stream media will not give you!

The hearing dates for our legislation Inmates – Life Imprisonment – Parole Reform are: February 17th HB-303 at 1:00 PM, and February 19th SB-111 at 1:00 pm in the Judicial committee hearing rooms.


We are planning a rally and press conference in Lawyers Mall in Annapolis between 10:30 and 11:30 am on the morning of the 17th before going inside to testify at the hearing.  If you are concerned about this issue you are welcome to attend.  Don’t wait until your moment of truth before deciding to take action, it may be too late.


There is some misinformation being circulate that our legislation does not seek removal of the governor from the parole process. This is not correct; the legislation seeks to remove the 180 days, along with the requirement of the governor’s signature for release. We’ve sought a retraction to be sent notifying people of the mistake so that they are not confused. Still waiting to see it!


Our position has always been; and continues to be, good decisions are made with good information, and this is why we've compiled the report ‘Still Blocking the Exit.’ It supports our position for parole reform. We also understand that there may be those who oppose releasing persons serving parole eligible life sentences, (which is different from life without parole) and they may never change their positions. We do, however, want to make sure they are aware of the fact that many people who were serving parole eligible life sentences are now free under the Unger decision living successful lives back in the community. (At this writing over 80) At least seventeen of them were denied parole in 2012, and have already begun saving the state of Maryland what would have been taxpaying dollars to keep them incarcerated. Our ask is; Equal Justice, Join us or get out of our way.

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