Justice Bill Hits Senate Snag, House Still Working

The Senate has slowed on SB 1005, Justice Reinvestment Act, amid questions of whether the amendments tacked onto the bill undermine its original intent.

According to the Washington Post,

The amendments were adopted by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee late Thursday night and early Friday morning. Miller said an analysis released over the weekend showed that under the new version of the bill, the state would save only $34 million over the next 10 years, instead of the nearly $250 million that was initially projected. Instead of dropping by about 14 percent, the prison population would grow slightly.

MACo offered testimony in support with amendments for this legislation during a Senate hearing on March 2, 2016. MACo raised a few concerns in an effort to ensure justice reinvestment is implemented in a manner that allows the state to reach its goals effectively without unintended costs and consequences that may undermine the benefits.

From the MACo testimony,

Reinvestment, particularly into local programs that are expected to provide services and support to individuals who are released or diverted from incarceration as a result of the bill, is crucial to the success of the initiative. Without reinvestment, the current capacity for services – which is already stressed – would not be able to meet the increased need. Counties are concerned the grant fund will not be sufficient.

It is estimated that this bill could generate $247 million in savings for the state over a 10-year period. But this is conditioned on the many pieces of the bill falling into place and performing as expected – it is not guaranteed.

As the grant fund is predicated on “savings,” the money would not be readily available. There will be a gap where local jails and community programs will need funding to comply with the provisions in the bill that will take place immediately.

The House cross-filed bill, HB 1312, has been assigned to a committee workgroup, which has been meeting daily with multiple stakeholders present, including MACo and local wardens.

A Capital News Service article  carried on MarylandReporter indicates that the bill is likely to be re-raised on the Senate floor Wednesday for further debate.

For more background on the Justice Reinvestment issue, see previous Conduit Street coverage:  Why “Justice Reinvestment” Might Be The Biggest Issue of the Session

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.