It looks like reform may be coming to Maryland’s criminal justice system. Legislators have made criminal justice reform a top priority, and while nothing has passed yet, Maryland appears to be getting on board with the national realization that more prison sentences and prison inmates do not mean more safety or rehabilitation.
Recidivism and Prison Rates Cause Concern
A major concern of any criminal justice system is the rate of recidivism–that is, how often criminals repeat their offenses and end up back in the criminal justice system. In the U.S., the issue is particularly important, as one study has shown that this country houses over half of the world’s prisoners. The prison problem has grown as many states passed mandatory sentence laws that prevent a judge or jury from having discretion in sentencing.
Legislators have noted that in Maryland, many convicts are more likely to commit crimes when they leave prison than they were before they entered. One study shows that four of every ten offenders will end up back in jail after three years.
Maryland and Other States Consider Options
Alternatives have been tried in other states. In Texas, legislators have opted for home detention, probation, increased supervision, and other non-incarceration options. These plans have also saved Texas millions of dollars, as supervising people through parole programs is cheaper than building or maintaining prisons.
Maryland’s governor recently signed a bill forming the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Counsel to study these issues. And reforms are needed. For example, 58% of those who ended up in state prisons were there for violating parole. That means that the entire parole system may need review and revision.
But those who are in parole successfully have a much lower rate of recidivism than those who serve time in prison, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust.
Additionally, inmates are actually spending 23% longer in prison today than they did ten years ago.
Maryland has made some headway in decreasing the prison population by changing certain drug crimes to “non-criminal” infractions. Given that more people end up in Maryland prisons for drug crimes than for any other offense, this is an important change in the law, but it is likely too early to determine the change’s effect on Maryland’s prison population.
Many of the proposed changes will not affect the most violent criminal offenders. For those who are considered low-risk, the urge to rehabilitate instead of incarcerate is taking hold nationwide.
Harsh sentencing laws make it all the more important for you have an attorney that understands all of your options if you are charged with a crime. The attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience in trying criminal cases. If you or someone you know was arrested or charged with a crime in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.