(This action alert is going out to our Maryland subscribers in the AM. As a Marylander -- I live in Takoma Park now -- I'm officially upset at the governor. I knew he'd show himself to be a "fake" liberal when push came to shove on this issue. - Dave)
Last month a modest but important sentencing reform bill -- HB 992, which restores parole eligibility for second-time drug offenders -- was passed by the Maryland General Assembly. At the time Gov. O'Malley had indicated that he supported the bill. But now he has flip-flopped and is saying he may veto it.
Please call O'Malley's office and demand he stop playing politics with people's lives and sign HB 992. Mandatory minimums are a terrible injustice and are costly and ineffective public policy -- HB 922 is simply a no-brainer. CALL (800) 811-8336, OR FAX O'MALLEY A LETTER AT (410) 974-3275. (The address to use on your letter if writing is: The Honorable Martin O'Malley, State House, Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925 -- be sure to use fax, though, there isn't enough time to rely on the US mail.) PLEASE FORWARD THIS ALERT TO YOUR FRIENDS IN MARYLAND TOO!!!
The organization Stop the Drug War (DRCNet) has a form set up online to make it easy to e-mail the governor -- I hope you will use this method too. Phone calls and individual faxed letters are the best, though, so if you can do one of those I hope you will. Please send me an e-mail, and send one to firstname.lastname@example.org to let me and DRCNet know you've taken action. Following is some background on HB 992, from the Justice Policy Institute:
When enacted, HB 992 would operate as follows:
- HB 992 does not apply to violent offenders. HB 992 does not apply to third or fourth time offenders. HB 992 does not apply to volume dealers or drug kingpins.
- A defendant is convicted of possession of intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. The defendant is a second-time offender and is subject to a 10-year mandatory sentence.
- At sentencing, the judge will have available a presentence investigation report (PSI), prepared by Parole and Probation, that details the defendant's complete criminal history (arrests, convictions, warrants, etc.), family history, drug addiction and treatment (or lack thereof) history, and a recommended sentence range based on the defendant's offender score and offense. The judge will hear from defense counsel and the state's attorney concerning a sentence.
- The defendant will be sentenced to 10 years of incarceration. If the defendant is not also guilty of a violent offense, the judge, after a full appraisal of the defendant and listening to argument and recommendations of the state's attorney and defense counsel, MAY sentence to 10 years with the POSSIBILITY of parole.
- The defendant is confined within the Department of Corrections and waits a minimum of two and a half years for a parole hearing.
- The parole commission then determines, based on the defendant's updated presentence investigation report (PSI), offense, offender score, impact statements, a letter from the state's attorney that originally prosecuted the case, and the defendant's "base file" -- i.e., complete institutional record prepared by a case manager detailing tickets, classes, work history, etc., and whether the inmate has an exit plan -- i.e. a job and place to live -- whether to parole the inmate.
- If the inmate is paroled (which is unlikely on the first attempt) and complies with the conditions of his or her parole, the state saves approximately $100,000 and public safety is not impacted.
- If the inmate is paroled (again, unlikely on the first attempt), the inmate is subject to supervised probation and, if the inmate fails to comply with his or her parole conditions, faces serving the entire balance of the 10-year sentence.
While HB 992 by no means does all we would want, it is a beginning. I hope you will take action -- thanks for helping us help Maryland's nonviolent drug offenders this year.