June 22, 2015

Baltimore Sun: Maryland justice panel eyes reduction in incarceration

Michael Dresser

A high-level commission will gather in Annapolis Monday to launch a sweeping examination of Maryland’s criminal justice system with the goal of reducing incarceration and repeat offenses while improving public safety.

The Maryland Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council — a collaboration of the three branches of state government — is aimed at revising Maryland’s sentencing and prison policies in a way that controls costs wile still allowing for appropriate punishment.

Monday’s meeting is expected to focus on organizing its activities through the rest of the year

The panel is one of three commissions looking at different aspects of criminal justice while the General Assembly is out of session — setting the stage for potentially sweeping reforms next year. The others are focused on police body cameras and on police training and practices.

The council includes judges, lawmakers, local law enforcement, justice reform advocates and high-level Hogan administration officials to conduct public forums, hear from experts and to produce a report to the legislature and Gov. Larry Hogan by the end of the year.

The panel will be chaired by Christopher B. Shank, a former state senator who now heads the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention.

The creation of the council was spearheaded by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, who testified in favor of the legislation that created it this spring. Miller and Barbera announced the meeting jointly along with Hogan, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

The group will have the assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts as part of a public-private partnership between Pew and the U.S. Justice Department. Maryland will follow the lead of many other states in pursuing justice reinvestment strategies to make better use of prison resources by focusing on keeping the worst offenders locked up while reducing incarceration for less dangerous lawbreakers.

Originally posted on the Baltimore Sun, available here.