Criminal activity is a problem that is taken very seriously in the state of Maryland. That is why it is important to constantly improve the criminal justice system. It is because of this that the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Hogan in 2016.
What is the Justice Reinvestment Act?
On October 1, 2017, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention enacted the JRA. The goals of the act are to protect the public, reduce corrections spending, provide support for those involved in the justice system, and reinvest resources into programs and policies that give hope for decreased crime and relapses into crime. Key provisions of the bill include but are not limited to:
- Elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for controlled dangerous substance felonies; maintains mandatory minimums for violent offenders, volume dealers, drug kingpins, and firearms-related offenses
- Administrative release process for low-level offenders at 25% of the sentenced served if a case plan is followed, there are no major conduct infractions, the victim does not request a hearing, and the Parole Commission deems a hearing unnecessary
- Requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to facilitate timely treatment to defendants ordered to Health General Article Section 8-507 drug treatment
- All inmates ordered to pay restitution to the victim will have 25% withheld of any inmate earnings for restitution
- Revocation caps for technical violations of parole and probation
- Increase the maximum penalty for second-degree murder from 30 to 40 years
- Models state law after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to allow prosecutors to target high-level drug traffickers
- Expands economic opportunity for ex-offenders by creating a certificate of completion for first-time, non-violent, non-sex offenders who complete supervision
- Provide possible life imprisonment penalty for committing a death during child abuse
- Increase from 25% to 50% of the minimum time for those who have a third or subsequent drug dealing offense before parole eligibility
Since the JRA was enacted, Maryland’s criminal justice system has seen a decline in the state’s prison and jail populations. There has also been a more streamlined treatment for addicts who were charged with crimes. According to a report from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, about 700 inmates have been screened for administrative release. Out of this, 147 inmates were found eligible. Of this, 60% have been released and the rest are fulfilling their minimum stay. The state’s prison population also dropped 1.8% in the 2018 fiscal year and the local detention population dropped 10%.
In addition to this, the Act stresses the need for treatment over incarceration. Between the fiscal years 2012 and 2014, placement times for psychiatric beds averaged around 167 days. In the 2017 fiscal year, this dropped to 91 days. With the JRA’s 21-day deadline, the average placement times dropped to 10.6 days for the 788 individuals who were placed in treatment in the fiscal year 2018.
Under the Justice Reinvestment Act, individuals can expunge their record after 10 years of good behavior. This includes parole, probation, or supervision for misdemeanor charges. After good behavior for 15 years, expungement is allowed for second-degree assault, felony theft, intent to distribute controlled, dangerous substances, and burglary in the first, second, and third degrees.
However, under current state law, a charge cannot be expunged if one conviction in a group of convictions is not eligible for expungement. This means that even if a charge receives a non-criminal disposition, it cannot be expunged if it is in the same unit of charges as a criminal one. It is because of this that changes are continuing to be proposed to this part of the law. Maryland Delegate Erek Barron is proposing to repeal this provision with a new bill, HB13, that would allow “a person to file a petition for partial expungement of certain criminal records under certain circumstances.” HB13 is currently still under review.
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