Remove Maryland Governor out of lifer parole process

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The participation of the governor has contributed significantly to the politicization of the parole process and no governor in Md. has approved the release of a parole-eligible “lifer” in 20 years.  That no parole eligible individuals serving life sentences have been released in the past 20 years (except for medical reasons) despite the Parole Commission’s recommendations suggests that governors have not made their decision by reviewing the recommended individual’s progress during confinement and his or her probability of recidivating; rather the blanket rejections suggest that governors are motived by political concerns regarding their own re-electability.  Also, that the careful recommendations of a body whose members are appointed based on their work related experience in law, psychology, psychiatry, social work and criminology and may be rejected by a single politician who has personal career-enhancing motivations and may not have any relevant experience in assessing risk or the human condition must no longer be allowed.

Unlike 47 other states, Maryland law provides that individuals serving life sentences “may only be paroled with the approval of the Governor.”  The statutory language granting the governor ultimate authority over parole decisions does not mention any factors the governor should or must consider in making the decision.  While MD Code 7-305 provides ten factors for the Parole Commission to consider in making its parole recommendation decision, “[b}y its plain language, 7-305 is applicable only to the Commission, individual commissioners, or hearing examiners,” and “[t}he statutory provision applicable to the Governor’s approval, 7-301(d)(4)….. contains no factors or guidelines for the Governor’s exercise of discretion.”  “The Governor is free to employ whatever guidelines he desires in exercising his discretion, except for guidelines that are constitutionally impermissible.”

Because Gov. O’Malley failed to take action on any parole recommendations forwarded to him, the legislature enacted a change to the Md Code providing that when the parole board recommends parole for an individual with a life sentence who has served 25 years, the governor has 180 days to disapprove the decision before the decision become effective.  Larry Hogan when running for governor promised to move more quickly in approving parole.  Governor Hogan has not lived up to his promise.

The debilitating political pressure that has influenced governors to exercise their authority to approve parole decisions effectively as a veto has turned parole-eligible life sentences into “life without parole” sentences and has dashed the hopes of many people.  The average age of an individual serving a life sentence recommended for parole but remains incarcerated is 60.  The annual cost to the state for a prisoner aged 60 and older is estimated at $60,000 resulting from expensive medical procedures, medications and more frequent medical attention thereby diverting resources from preschool programs, substance abuse treatments and mental health interventions which has demonstrated crime reduction benefits.  The annual cost for younger individuals is estimated at $35,000 and a person on parole is only $1422.

Maryland needs the governor out of the process.  Please sign this petition that will be sent to the House and Senate Judiciary committees requesting that legislation introduced during the 2016 legislative session be passed repealing the existing law provision that “an eligible person who is serving a life term imprisonment may be paroled only with the Governor’s approval.  Let’s TAKE the Governor OUT OF THE PROCESS.  



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