ANNAPOLIS, MD – Today, a full vote is expected in the Maryland Senate on a bill to fix the state’s broken parole system so that Marylanders serving life sentences finally have a chance to earn release. For the first time, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee late last week voted to approve the legislation and advance it to the Senate floor.
Quote from Calvin McNeill: “I spent 39 years incarcerated for something I did at 16 years old. Me and others were sentenced to life in prison, but it was with the possibility of parole. It is not right that ever since the governor made that statement, ‘life means life,’ he took away all hope and possibility from everyone inside those walls. People need this hope that they will finally have a real chance to earn release.”
Quote from Walter Lomax, Founder and Executive Director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative: “We have been advocating on this issue for 28 years, and to have it moving towards a final conclusion is great news.”
Maryland has the starkest racial disparities of any state’s prison population: 77 percent of those serving life with parole sentences are Black and are subjected to a highly politicized parole process.
The Life Imprisonment - Parole Reform bill [HB 3/SB 202] would finally take the politics out of parole. Maryland’s current law gives sole authority to release those serving a life with parole sentence to the Governor, which has resulted in only a small fraction of those given life with parole sentences being released, even when they have earned release and received approval from the Maryland Parole Commission, which involves a rigorous and lengthy review process that includes multiple hearings, assessments, and a vote of the full Commission.
This bill has been introduced nearly every year for more than a decade. It is time for the Maryland General Assembly to finally take action and start to restore a functional parole system.
We are grateful to Senator Delores Kelley for her determined leadership on this important issue. We also recognize the many leaders who have championed it in the past, including former Delegates Clarence “Tiger” Davis and Salima Marriott; former Senator Nathaniel McFadden; Delegates Curt Anderson, Luke Clippinger, and Pam Queen; and Senator Jill Carter.