WASHINGTON—Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) signed into law a comprehensive package of criminal justice legislation today to enhance public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs. The new law restructures sentences for low-level property and drug offenders and provides effective sanctions and incentives to help keep offenders on probation and parole crime- and drug-free.
The Justice Reinvestment Act is projected to reduce Maryland’s prison population by nearly 1,200 inmates within 10 years, freeing up $80.5 million for investment in programs to reduce recidivism rates, treat substance abuse, and enhance community supervision practices.
“The law is a landmark achievement for Maryland’s criminal justice system,” said Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project. “It reflects a carefully crafted bipartisan consensus on how to improve the public safety returns from the large sum the state spends every year on corrections.”
The new law is based on policy recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, which engaged in a comprehensive study of Maryland’s sentencing and corrections systems. With technical assistance from Pew, the council analyzed data, evaluated policies and programs in Maryland and other states, and reviewed research on reducing recidivism. In December the council issued a report with its findings and a wide-ranging set of policy recommendations, which formed the basis of the Justice Reinvestment Act.
The council found that over the past decade, Maryland achieved large declines in violent and property crime rates along with modest reductions in the state prison population. However, the state still incarcerated more than 20,000 offenders in 2014, costing taxpayers $1.4 billion. Meanwhile, critical recidivism reduction investments such as specialty courts, drug treatment, and re-entry programs were underfunded.
To address these findings, the law:
Before passage of the bill, Maryland’s prison population was projected to grow by 6 percent over the next 10 years, but when fully implemented the reform package should prevent all of that projected growth and provide a better return on investment for state taxpayers.
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a public-private partnership between Pew and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, has assisted, in addition to Maryland, more than two dozen states, including Georgia, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah, with similar data-driven analyses and consensus-based policy recommendations.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org.