This week the Maryland legislature passed the 2016 Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) –a bipartisan data driven effort aimed at reforming the Maryland justice system. The overarching goal of the JRA is to safely reduce the prison population and reinvest savings back into areas and programs that advance public safety.
The final JRA bill is a far cry from the initial vision of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (JRCC) process that has been advancing for the past year: A report offering recommendations by the JRCC would have saved the state $246 million over 10 years.
JPI acknowledges that, even with a series of harmful Senate amendments to the original JRCC package, the enacted JRA is a step in the right direction for Maryland: Emphasizing a treatment approach to people incarcerated for low level drug offenses, mitigating the role technical violations play in people under community supervision, repealing some mandatory minimums and improvements in the parole process are steps in the right direction for Maryland.
To the degree that the changes here help modestly reduce the use of incarceration, it represents base to build from in future justice reform efforts. Next session, legislators and the executive should promote changes in law, policies and practice to more meaningfully reduce the use of incarceration in Maryland.
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