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Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act

The Maryland Assembly has recently passed the Justice Reinvestment Act which is generally aimed at significantly reduces Maryland’s prison population. Our partner, Judge Joe Murphy (ret.) played a key role in formulating much of this legislation. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 122-19 and the Senate 46-0. Gov. Hogan is expected to sign the bill into law this spring.

Many major policy changes are highlighted below in this text but include a unique opportunity for inmates serving mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses an unprecedented opportunity to return to court and ask for a sentence modification.

Some other highlights to the bill include:

SENTENCING POLICIES • Property offenses o Raises the felony theft threshold from $1,000 to $1,500
 Reduces the penalties for misdemeanor theft for the first offense to 6mths, subsequent is 1 year
o Adds an enhancement for 5th and subsequent convictions
• Driving With a Suspended License o Makes driving with a suspended license nonjailable with a fine of $500.00 and must appear in court

• Drug Offenses:
o Possession –
 Restructures drug possession penalties and provides guidance to the court to divert offenders with substance abuse disorders into treatment. Also encourages prompt placement into a treatment facility
 Includes some fixes to ensure that marijuana is handled commensurately
o Crack/Powder cocaine disparity:
 Eliminates the disparity between crack and powder cocaine penalties o Mandatory minimums
 Retroactive:
• Allows drug offenders sentenced to mandatory minimum terms before the safety valve was enacted to be eligible for re-sentencing
 Prospective:
• Eliminates mandatory minimums for all commercial drug offenses except volume dealers and kingpins (non-consensus
• Removes “doubler” penalty (this is a statute that allows prosecutors to double the sentence for subsequent drug offenders) unless you have a crime of violence in your history • Makes 3rd and subsequent commercial drug offenders violent for the purposes of parole, meaning these offenders will now be eligible at 50% of their time served instead of the current law which makes them eligible at 25%
• Enhancements
o Enhances Murder 2nd sentence from 30 to 40 yrs
o Enhances penalty of child abuse 1st if it results in death to life
o Adopts the Governor’s RICO gang bill

RELEASE POLICIES:
• Administrative parole:
o Establishes a form of parole for certain drug offenses and misdemeanor property crimes (excluding: (1) those with 2 prior commercial drug offenses or (2) with any history of violence or sex crime)
 The policy establishes that the offender will receive a case plan based on a risk and needs assessment;
 The Commission will receive progress reports on the offender’s compliance every four months; and,
 The Commission will authorize the release of an offender at his eligibility date if:
• The offender complied with their case plan; did not commit a Category 1 rule violation; a victim has not requested a hearing; and, the Commission finds the hearing unnecessary based on the offender’s history, progress and compliance

• Diminution credits:
o Allows offenders returning to prison on a revocation from Mandatory Release to earn credits o Expands the program participation credits by an additional 10 days
o Ensures that all drug offenders get 10 days good-time credits for every 30 days served. Currently drug offenders earn only 5 days of credit a month even though other nonviolent offenders earn 10
• Geriatric parole:
o Expands eligibility by reducing the qualifying age from 65 to 60 and must have served 15yrs and excludes sex offenders

• Medical parole:
o Requires that applications have evaluations from an independent authority
o If the offender is sentenced to life, the Governor has 180 days to disapprove medical parole

SUPERVISION POLICIES
• Graduated sanctions:
o Requires parole and probation officers to respond to technical violations using swift, certain, and proportional sanctions and limits the amount of time that parolees and probationers can be returned to prison for a technical violation
o Allows for a public safety departure via “rebuttable presumption”

• Use of evidence-based practices
o Requires the use of a validated risk and needs assessment o Requires that the Division of Parole and Probation use a validated risk and needs assessment to guide supervision intensity, case planning, and treatment and programming referrals o Requires the Division of Parole and Probation to establish evidence-based supervision standards

• Earned Compliance credits
o Strengthens the current earned compliance credit system by expanding eligibility to all drug offenders and allowing those who have earned enough credits to be automatically transferred to unsupervised parole or probation where they are no longer subject to fees

• Certificate of rehabilitation
o Allows first-time, nonviolent offenders (excluding sex offenders) to apply for a certificate of completion to restore their rights to obtain certain professional certifications, but maintains that a licensing board cannot exclude an offender if only due to the conviction

• Adopts Chairman Zirkin’s misdemeanor expungement bill and Delegate Barron’s shielding bill

• Includes a number of studies on:
o Employment barriers
o Restitution o Treatment needs and available treatment services in the State