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May 9, 2007

Maryland Gov debating drug sentencing reform

Thanks to the always great Corrections Sentencing, I saw this strong article from yesterday's Washington Post about Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's uncertainty about signing a bill that would make twice-convicted drug dealers eligible for parole.  Here some highlights from the article:

Twenty-five years ago, Maryland joined a national movement to stem the rising drug trade, requiring sentences of 10 to 40 years for drug dealers.  But locking up the hard-to-reform offenders with fixed sentences did little to prevent their re-arrest and even less to address the addiction that led to their crimes.

O'Malley (D) said last week that he is reviewing the bill and is "very much in favor of drug treatment."  But he faces a conflict between his liberal sensibilities and his experience as a two-term mayor of Baltimore, where he saw daily homicides committed by drug addicts. "Anyone who doubts that drug distribution is a violent crime need only look at the morgues of this state," he said.

The Legislative Black Caucus, concerned that African Americans make up a majority of defendants jailed on drug charges, made House Bill 992 a top priority this year, but it was still among the most divisive of the just-concluded legislative session.... The measure reflects a bipartisan shift in the politics of crime in Maryland, where corrections officials estimate that drugs played a role in the offenses of 70 percent of 22,692 state inmates....

On the Senate floor last month, two Republicans said they favored rehabilitation over punishment. "My thinking has completely changed," said Sen. Larry E. Haines (R-Carroll), telling colleagues of his recent work with addicts. "These people need treatment."

It's the same conclusion drawn in the past four years by 22 states, including Michigan, Texas and New York, that have rolled back mandatory minimum drug sentences or restructured penalties.  At the federal level, the U.S. Sentencing Commission recommended last week that Congress reduce minimum sentences for first-time crack cocaine convictions.  House leaders are expected to hold hearings on the issue....

The bill's original language included funding for treatment. But it came to the floor of both chambers with none in a year with little new spending.  This stirred concern among opponents, who said it would be irresponsible to parole drug offenders without a safety net.  "I'm not prepared to gamble with public safety by letting these people get paroled early and hoping they get treatment," said Del. Christopher B. Shank (R-Washington), the minority whip.

The number of drug offenders given fixed sentences in Maryland is relatively small, about 100 people a year, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a national advocacy group.  But public defenders say the system encourages prosecutors to push thousands more defendants into plea bargains to avoid lengthier sentences.

May 9, 2007 at 04:59 PM | Permalink


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Hopefully, people who peddle drugs to kids won't be getting this new lenience. Amazing how liberals want to go after McDonalds etc. for the stuff they sell, but want to be solicitous of drug dealers.

Posted by: federalist | May 10, 2007 9:02:49 AM

For at least a century, federal, state, and local governments have responded to drug use. The responses have been shaped by numerous factors, including constitutional and other divisions of governmental responsibility, the extent and nature of the immediate drug use problem, and public concern over the problem.
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Posted by: adolfoceli | Nov 21, 2008 1:04:33 AM

This article about drug rehab is really very useful and nice.Its true that they took lot of effort to reduce the drug addicts.Maryland government is really great.

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