Maryland Considers Reducing Drug Crime Sentences
Maryland Lawmakers Debate Bill To Reduce Drug Crime Sentences
The Maryland House of Delegates this week debated a criminal justice bill that would ease some of the most severe punishments left over from the war on drugs.
The bill seeks to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and puts a greater emphasis on treatment instead of prison.
State lawmakers also hope to reduce their prison costs by hundreds of millions of dollars per year while shrinking the prison population.
However, the bill faces opposition in the state Senate, where members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee warned that it threatens public safety if some of the worst drug offenders are released too soon.
The strongest supporters of the bill include African American lawmakers, such as Sen. Dolores G. Kelly (D-Baltimore County). She argues the bill is a move in the right direction toward giving drug offenders a chance to rehabilitate themselves. Any risk of violence from offenders eligible for early release would be considered by the judges, she said.
Preliminary comments from state lawmakers indicate the bill is likely to win enough votes to pass soon.
Maryland joins several states, such as Pennsylvania and Kentucky, that are trying to reduce their prison populations and costs by releasing more nonviolent drug offenders.