Justice Reinvestment ‘Ball’ Now in House ‘Court’

With two weeks left in session the work on the Justice Reinvestment Act (SB 1005/HB 1312) is far from over. Despite some snags, SB 1005 passed out of the Senate 46-0 on March 24.

As reported in The Washington Post:

But the bill was almost derailed last week after the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee amended the measure, arguing that it went too far in keeping offenders out of jail and could pose a risk to public safety. Now the bill heads to the more liberal House of Delegates, where an emotional debate is expected this week.

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee chairman Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) defended the amendments on the Senate floor last week by rattling off a list of violent criminals who, without the changes, would have been eligible for automatic parole or for shorter sentences after probation violations.

That brought a sharp rebuke from Sen. Dolores G. Kelly (D-Baltimore County), one of many African American lawmakers who say the amended bill does not do enough to free those who are trying to rehabilitate their lives and deserve a second chance.

Action now lies in the House where a workgroup continues efforts on the crossfile HB 1312 while deliberating changes made in the Senate on SB 1005. As the article continues:

It is not yet clear what changes will be sought by delegates. Last year, some members of the Justice Reinvestment Council sought to repeal mandatory minimums altogether, and that effort could be revived in coming days. (Nearly 90 percent of the people serving mandatory minimum sentences in Maryland are African American).

At a private meeting of the Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday, Del. Joseline A. ­Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) could be overheard through a closed door encouraging the ­caucus to take a strong stand on the bill.

“We are 47 black members, and we can make a difference,” she said. “This is an issue that we can make a difference on.”

Members of a Judiciary Committee work group have begun poring over the 90-page bill sent over by the Senate, going line by line to discuss possible changes.

For more information read the full article in The Washington Post.

For more background, see previous Conduit Street coverage:

Justice Reforms Pass Senate — With An Eye Toward Further House Action

Why “Justice Reinvestment” Might Be The Biggest Issue of the Session