Justice Reforms Grab Spotlight in 2016 Session Preview

The Frederick News-Post ran an article previewing the 2016 legislative session, covering a range of topics anticipated to draw attention in the months ahead. Their attention to justice reforms – including several proposals with major impact on local jails – was a substantial part of their coverage.

From the News-Post article:

Maryland lawmakers will seek to pass an omnibus criminal justice reform bill that could reduce the state’s jailed population by 14 percent and save $247 million in corrections costs over the next decade.

The recommendations for reform come from Maryland’s Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, which issued a report in December outlining 19 sentencing reform measures and a half-dozen areas where savings from those reforms could be reinvested in state programs that try to get prisoners healthy, with a focus on substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Recommendations of the council include shortening some prison sentences for drug-related and felony theft crimes; increasing access to drug treatment programs; expanding prison programs that reward good behavior; and retroactively applying exemptions from “mandatory minimum” sentences.

Proposed changes to the state’s system of parole and probation include creating a standardized set of swift, certain, and proportional sanctions for violations during supervised release.

A final set of recommendations would alter release and re-entry programs in the state.

The paper also covers the looming state budget debate, “death with dignity” legislation, and issues of local interest among its “Six Things To Expect.”

For more Conduit Street coverage on justice reinvestment approaches, see:

Justice Reinvestment Group Holds Final Meeting on Reform Recommendations

Justice Reinvestment Group Shares Preliminary Recommendations and Potential Cost Savings

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties