The Justice Reinvestment Act recently passed in Maryland with the objective of making substantial reforms to the state’s criminal justice system. One of the key themes of this Act is its prioritizing punishment and sentences for inmates based on the nature of the violence in their crimes. The purpose of this Act was to streamline the process of how inmates are punished to improve the efficiency in the use of state resources by not having extended sentences in the cases of those who have committed crimes that are less severe.
One of the most sensational aspects of this Act is by proposing to reduce the imprisonment of nonviolent inmates, the state proposes to invest more money in drug treatment and prevention. The investment will specifically go to help inmates who have served 25 percent of their sentences for nonviolent drug offenses specifically. This provision also applies to inmates who had committed a theft that was under the monetary value of $1,500. The Administrative Release is geared towards making the process of being approved for parole much easier for those who have completed 25 percent of their court appointed sentence. That being said, this new provision does allow a safeguard against the early release of those inmates that are viewed to be a risk to public safety.
Mandatory Minimums Changes
Another key provision of the law that impacts the criminal law system in Maryland is the Mandatory Minimum aspect of the Justice Reinvestment Act. The Mandatory Minimum eliminates sentences that are hold mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Some of these Mandatory Minimums relate to the possession with the intent to manufacture and/or distribute drugs. Even though some Mandatory Minimums are removed, judges still maintain the right to impose longer term sentences when it is necessary. Some examples of the permitted sentence lengths are: 20 years for a first or second offense, 25 years for a third offense, and 40 years for a fourth offense, for example. What remains in effect for the longer term sentences is that those respective inmates are required to serve at least half of their court mandated sentence in order to be eligible for parole. Those who have committed more violent crimes and who are drug dealers are still subject to Mandatory Minimum sentences. This part of the law is in place ultimately to prevent situations where someone is given a sentence that clearly the judge wouldn’t have given had the mandatory minimum not been in place.
Revocation Cap Changes
The Justice Reinvestment Act also changes the Revocation Caps in Maryland. The law enables those who had violated parole to avoid severe punishment for minor violations. The new proposed disciplinary pattern is 15 days for one single violation, 30 days for a second violation, and 45 for a third violation. Even though this Revocation Cap measure did in fact limit the incarceration punishment time limits for parole violations; it also still allows for an exception to impose harsher punishments on those who have presented a real threat to public safety.
It’s important to note that the Justice Reinvestment Act is not only lenient, there are also provisions of the act that do make the criminal justice system in Maryland stricter. There are now harsher sentences for those involved in the distribution of drugs, and increased sentences for those who commit second-degree murder, or murder of a child through child abuse. The sentence for those guilty of second-degree murder has been increased to ten years in prison.
All in all, the Justice Reinvestment Act seeks to promote efficiency through fairness in the state of Maryland. By limiting frivolous incarcerations and prolonged sentences, the state of Maryland is making major reforms to their criminal justice system. Additionally, the Act is not too lax because it also imposes harsher sentences where the crimes meet a certain threshold of culpability. The bill will save the state of Maryland significantly in expenditures in the long run by stopping the practice of housing inmates for prolonged sentences for nonviolent crimes. By focusing on those inmates that need more corrective attention and that are truly a danger to the public order, the state of Maryland should have a great deal of positive reform to their criminal justice system in the long run. The potential side effects are yet to be seen though.