There are currently 2,657 people serving parole eligible life sentences in Maryland. It is one of only three states where the Governor must approve parole for people serving a parole-eligible life sentence (the other two are California and Oklahoma). And none of the last three governors have approved the release of any people that were recommended by the Parole Commission.
In an opinion article published in the Baltimore Sun, Governor Glendening, who ushered in this policy said that his proclamation of “life means life” made the parole process “much more political than it should be.” Governor Glendening also said that he would “not have a problem” with changing the state law to remove the Governor from the process.
The politicization of the parole process is unnecessarily costing the State of Maryland millions of dollars to warehouse for years people who could be safely released to community supervision. It also denies people who have worked diligently to better themselves, and their families, the chance for parole they were told they’d have.
To help bring light to this startling issue, JPI, alongside the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, created a 14-minute documentary, “Blocking the Exit,” to better understand the profound impact that requiring Governor approval of parole for lifers has had in Maryland. The documentary features victims, current and former legislatures, formerly incarcerated people, former corrections officials, and family of those currently affected by this broken system.
JPI also created a factsheet to discuss the facts and figures around the Governor’s role in parole for lifers.