THE DAILY RECORD August 31, 1996 Getting Tough on Crime Means State Holds Political Prisoners.

THE DAILY RECORD August 31, 1996

Getting Tough on Crime Means State Holds Political Prisoners.


Maryland, like most States has a parole expectance built into its criminal justice system. When politics are not in the equation, deserving persons are released on parole. There are various degrees of sentences: minimum length, maximum length, mandatory, with parole, and without parole. And like most other states, Maryland has a parole system. The parole system, as with the many other systems are approved by the legislature, operates under specific criteria which have been tested and accepted by the judiciary. But until 1995, a weakness in one area

— That should have been corrected years ago — was made painfully clear by newly elected Gov. Paris N. Glendenning when he declared that he would absolutely Refuse to grant parole to lifers serving parole eligible life

Sentences. To date, neither Glendenning nor his administration has offered any rationale for this position. He is, however, the governor and his views must be considered, with the understanding that for each view put forth there are alternative, and opposing ones. The governor's position is that persons serving parole eligible life sentences are predators and a danger to public safety and that keeping them in prison is the answer to the crime problem. Glendenning has stated that he will not sign for the release of any parole eligible lifer unless the prisoner is very  old or dying.


Since the governor has not offered any statistics to support this position, we must await his response.

In the Interim, I shell put forth an opposing view. First, in the past, parole eligible lifers have been released on parole based on criteria established by the Parole Commission, and approved by the legislature. Their records indicate that the vast majority are now living productive lives in society and that recidivism is less than 6 percent — as opposed to 18.2 percent for all other groups. Until June 1993 parole eligible lifers progressed through the correctional system; from maximum to medium, to minim security, and to work release and family leaves before being considered for parole. This process takes years, sometimes as many as 20, depending on exceptional behavior before being approved for a lesser Classification.


Cruel and unusual

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of the lifers. District Court Chief Judge J. Frederick Motz stated in an opinion considering the claims, that "Hope and the longing for reward for one's efforts lay at the heart of the human condition ... their destruction is punishment in the profoundest sense of the word ... cruel and unusual punishment."

And, more and more Judges and prosecutors have been receptive to the suspended life sentence’s, with the intent of the individuals' having an opportunity for release on parole. Many individuals — including the 134 removed from Maryland's prerelease system in June 1993 — were sentenced long before Willie Morton, whose release and

Subsequent crime spree became a tough-on criminals rallying cry that helped sweep George Bush into the Oval Office in1988. Most of these Individuals had been incarcerated over 20 years, and some had been successful in the work release and family leave programs.


Because Maryland has a statute mandating a sentence of life without parole, as well a sentence with parole, sentencing judge’s has the option of which sentence to impose. If a sentence of life with parole has been given, one would assume that was the judge's intent; and for Glendening to take an opposing view, he has In effect created a unique class of Individuals — political prisoners. The cost to Maryland taxpayers is $20,000 to $25,000 a year to support a lifer. In 1983, there were 819 persons serving Parole able life sentences in the state and today there are over 1,700.


In 1987, there were 12,542 prisoners in this division, today there are over 23.000. In 1987 the Actual fiscal

year expenditures were $281 million; the FY expenditure for 1997 Is $642 million. For parole eligible lifers alone, it cost $43 million, and if current trends continue, before the year 2000 the D.O.C. FY expenditure will surpass the $1 billion mark without effort.




The Offenders and Advocates Coalition for Change and the Maryland Lifer's Fund have offered a solution to the problem: — legislation to repeal the governor's authority to sign for a parole eligible lifers release- after having completed 20 years of the sentence. The fact is, when politic are not in the equation, deserving persons are released on parole. The governor's policy does not address the crime issue, protects no one, and unnecessarily punishes people who have already served their sentences.


Special Interest groups ask; “what about the victims”? “Do they not have rights”? The answer is yes they do, and always have. Legislation mandates a penalty for every crime committed in the state of Maryland as well as the procedure for how each penalty is to be carried out. What is at issue here is the abuse of an authority vested in an individual for the sole purpose of political gain.


One also should bear in mind, philosophically speaking; prisons were designed to rehabilitate-. The victims are not helped by Glendenning’s policy, which only became popular as a result of the Willie Horton case and its political ramifications.


The parole board, when making recommendations for release considers a myriad of criteria, most of which are approved by the legislative branch. The eight commissioner, who are paid $50,600 s year, are devoted on a full-time bases to the parole board and are some of the most qualified Individuals in the state. Chairman Paul Davis is the former commissioner of the Baltimore City Jail and has spent over 27 years in the Maryland corrections system; others have worked as public safely Workers, district court commissioners, police officers, state senators, police Chiefs, drug enforcement officials, attorneys and other professions. They are appointed by the governor, approved by the legislature, and with the exception of parole eligible lifers, have the authority to parole all other persons serving a sentence in Maryland. This is one point of view, and there are probably many others, but the bottom line is, there is a need for dialogue concerning parole eligible lifers.


Waller E. Lomax is a prisoner incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, Lomax,

was sentenced  to life with the possibility of parole, has been in the system since December 1967', when he was 20 years old. For 29 years he has been a model prisoner,

participating in numerous educational and social activities. Lomax serves as coordinator for the Maryland

Lifers Fund, an advisory group for prisoners serving parole eligible life sentences





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commented 2014-12-28 14:17:29 -0800 · Flag
After almost 20 years we are still faced with this same issue. I refer to is as; an interesting scenario, somewhat of a conundrum.