Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act Allows Sentence Reduction for Drug Crimes
The Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) is opening the door for incarcerated criminals to ask for sentence reductions concerning drug crimes, according to an article by The Baltimore Sun.
The JRA passed through both houses of the Maryland state legislature in April 2016. About one month later, Governor Larry Hogan signed the bill into law. Approximately one year later, the full effects of the JRA are coming to fruition.
Aimed at decreasing the Maryland prison population, the JRA seeks to reallocate funds toward the prisoner treatment. The idea is to provide better support services to inmates – before, during and after prison – in order to reduce the chance of repeat criminal offenses.
One aspect of the JRA concerns repeat offenders and mandatory minimum sentences. Before the JRA took effect, anyone convicted of a repeat drug dealing crimes faced a mandatory minimum sentence without the possibility of parole. The minimum sentence escalated with the number of offenses, as outlined below:
- The second offense carried a minimum of 10 years in jail.
- The third offense carried a minimum of 25 years in jail.
- The fourth offense carried a minimum of 40 years in jail.
Now that the JRA is in full effect, the mandatory minimum sentences disappear. Moreover, inmates serving prison sentences on a mandatory minimum sentence are eligible to petition for sustenance reduction.
In terms of data, there are 490 inmates incarcerated for drug offenses who are eligible for sentence reduction. Approximately 80 percent of those prisoners are serving 10-year mandatory minimum sentences for a second offense.
Concerning the geographic spread of these 490 inmates, there is a serious concentration in certain counties. Baltimore County leads the way with 174 inmates, approximately 36 percent of the total. The next closest is Charles County with 54 inmates. To round out the top five, Washington County has 45, Wicomico has 44 and Worcester has 31. No other county in Maryland has more 16 inmates eligible for sentence reduction for repeat drug offenses.
At this point, inmates seeking sentence reduction must file a motion with the courts. Prosecutors will review each motion and decide whether to object to the request for sentence reduction.
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