Legislators from four states — Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania — met recently to discuss legislative policy and regional issues. Criminal justice reform was a topic of note on the agenda.
The Herald-Mail reports:
Maryland lawmakers approved a sweeping criminal-justice reform bill during this year’s General Assembly that aimed to provide more treatment for low-level drug offenders, while increasing sentences for some violent crimes, including second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.
One of the architects of that legislation, Sen. Michael Hough, R-Frederick, told the group that he had changed his perspective from supporting mandatory minimum sentences to the “restorative justice” concept — which seeks to restore a community rather than simply punish offenders — behind Maryland’s new Justice Reinvestment Act.
Republican Virginia Del. David LaRock said two initiatives dealing with minor offenses had failed in that state’s legislature this year because of “a resistance to anything that does not fall into law enforcement.… Zero-tolerance is easy to understand even if it is not the best thing.”
Meanwhile, West Virginia faces a dual problem of overcrowded prisons and a budget crisis, said Sen. Charles Trump IV, R-Morgan.
The state is trying options that give judges more discretion, particularly for minor offenders. It’s too early to tell whether those initiatives are affecting recidivism, Trump said.
But one thing that does appear to be working is the development and expansion of drug courts, he said.
For more information read the full article in The Herald-Mail.