The debate on how to fix crime rates, and which law enforcement policies work and which do not, are being brought back into the spotlight. A new crime bill seems to lean the opposite direction of most popular thoughts on crime and punishment—for example, enacting harsher, longer penalties, when the trend had been finding avenues for people to get out of prison and back into the workforce if their crimes were not considered violent.
In fact, many lawmakers say that the new laws remind them of the tougher, often cited as unfair, crime laws passed in the 80s. Of course, others say such change is needed.
Proposed Crime Law Changes
Among some proposed law changes are increasing maximum penalties for those who use firearms from 20 to 40 years for second time offenders. The law increases the penalties for witness intimidation, and disallows a longstanding policy of transferring some prisoners from prison to drug rehabilitation to help get them back into society.
In some less controversial measures, the bill also provides more funding for public relations and funds mediators to try to prevent crime from happening in some of Baltimore’s most violent areas.
Despite all of this, the final bill actually softens some of the Governor’s original proposals, which included mandatory sentencing for nonviolent offenders.
Mandatory Sentences are an Old Debate
The push to decrease sentences and allow people to work toward rehabilitation outside of prison was once a popular trend in law enforcement. Allowing someone a path to being a productive member of society was thought of as being better than locking him or her up forever.
It has been alleged that behind all these proposed legislative changes is racial bias. Many believe that increasing mandatory minimums and eliminating paths to get out of the criminal justice system disproportionately and negatively affects people of color.
In fact, this is why the part of the bill that included mandatory minimum sentences has, for the time being, been left out. Proponents say that although increased possible prison time for repeat offenders is included in the bill, the penalties are not mandatory sentences.
The Baltimore Public Defender’s office has also come out against the bill, arguing that it is not only confusing, but a hidden attempt to restore mandatory sentences without explicitly saying so.
Understand the new criminal laws that affect your rights. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights if you are arrested or charged with a crime.