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Maryland's Outside Connection

Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative
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Legislative Committee Meeting held on Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative’s mission is to advocate and promote humane and sensible criminal justice and sentencing policies for those incarcerated long term in Maryland prisons.   We believe that through actions of restoration, redemption and reconciliation, we can create long-term systemic change

 

Background

 

After serving 39 years for a crime he did not commit, and witnessing the dismal conditions of the Maryland Criminal Justice system, Walter Lomax, in conjunction with the listed partners and sponsors, is organizing a seminar on May 14, 2008.  The goals of the initial seminar are to bring together members of the three branches of the Maryland State Government, along with members of Congress, advocates, volunteers, and professionals from various levels of society to foster conversations around restorative and humane criminal justice policies to address existing systemic problems.

 

In a special report  published in “U.S. News & World Report  by Alex Kingsbury, (Dec. 17th  2007)  “There are more than 1.5 million people in state or federal prison for serious offenses and 750,0000 others in jail for more minor crimes. Prison populations have swelled since the early 1970s, and now offenders are returning to their neighborhoods at a rate of more than 1,400 per day. In 1994, nearly 457,000 prisoners were released from state and federal custody, and in 2005, almost 699,000 prisoners were released. That is the largest single exodus of ex-convicts in American history. According to the most recent study on recidivism, in 1994, more than two thirds of prisoners- 68 percent- ended up back behind bars within three years of release.  It is that figure, little changed for decades, that has community leaders and criminal justice experts focusing on a fresh approach.” We are seeking to have Maryland become one of the cutting edge states in addressing those concerns.

 

Maryland, like most states, has parole expectances built into its system. Most prisoners will begin their sentences in maximum security, work their way into medium security, to minimum security and eventually to release. In 1993, the philosophy of sensible criminal justice policies changed, and prisons in Maryland became more draconian in their approach. The philosophy of warehousing prisoners until their release is not practical from a fiscal point of view nor from a humanistic one. The reality is that 95% of all incarcerated individuals will be released back into the communities from which they came, and they will be without the skills and necessary resources to function in society.

 

Just as seasons change, so must philosophical and ideological concepts change when new and informed ideas occur.  The changing of seasons bring with it new growth, so must the changing of philosophies and ideologies that are no longer workable. The pendulum has swung so far to the right; sensible people are now beginning to question the philosophy of Maryland's criminal justice system. This new season is ripe with sound reasoning.

 

Aims and Objectives

 

The aims and objectives of this initiative will be the crafting of smarter legislation and the redevelopment of policies so that individuals who are spending many years in prison may receive meaningful consideration for release and supports.    Our plan is to go beyond this inaugural conference and extend this initiative into the 2009 Maryland Legislative Session.  This conference is the springboard to the larger initiative.  

 

Conference topics included a discussion of the following:

 

  • Viable programs for persons serving long-term incarceration. (Executive)
  • Sensible Criminal Justice Policies. (Legislative)
  • Education and Habilitation. (Executive)
  • Community-based programs with inmate participation. (Executive)
  • Programs for persons unable to move below medium security to demonstrate their soundness for reentry back into society.  (Executive)              
  • Belated sentence review for long-tern incarcerees. (Judiciary)
  • Time reduction for good conduct. (Judiciary)
  • Sentence reduction for health reasons. (Executive)
  • Review of the Governor’s authority to sign for the release of parole eligible persons serving life sentences. (Legislative)
  • Parole for persons serving eligible life sentences after earning a certain number of diminution credits. (Legislative)

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For more information on working with Maryland's Restorative Justice Committee, contact the Project Director, Walter Lomax, at mrji4phases@yahoo.com.