April 8, 2011

Blog: Parole for life sentences changed – again

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Maryland correctional services shoulder patchAfter a final vote on amendments Thursday evening, a bill before the House of Delegates again requires the governor to take action to keep people serving life prison sentences behind bars if they are recommended for parole.

The bill gives the governor 90 days to act on parole recommendations for people serving life prison sentences. If the governor does not take action in that time frame, the bill would automatically grant the inmate parole.

The Senate-passed version of the bill gave the governor 180 days.

On Tuesday, Del. John Olszewski, D-Baltimore County, offered an amendment to the bill that would leave the inmate in prison the governor does not take action. The amendment passed by a single vote, with a 67-66 tally.

Del. Michael Vaughn, D-Prince George’s County, moved to reconsider the vote.

Thursday’s reconsideration vote came at the end of a grueling six-hour floor session. People who opposed the motion attempted to rehash the lengthy debate, but they were quickly quelled with groans and speedy motions to stop the discussion.

With a 61-76 vote, the bill was changed back to the way it was at the beginning of the week.

The House will have a final vote on the bill on Friday.

–Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

  • Cutiepuppy83

    In my English class I am writing my final paper on the differences of parole eligibility qualifications from state to state. A piece of my paper is “Imagine that you are sitting in a courtroom and you hear the judge say, “You are hereby sentenced 16 years to life in prison.” You have loved ones in the room. The room becomes silent. You can’t speak, you can’t move, you can’t breathe. You look over and see the person you are supposed to be spending your life with. They look devastated. You don’t know when or if you will ever see them again. When you receive a sentence like this, whether it is for a crime you may have already served time for or a crime you did not commit, the questions remain the same. What do I do? Where do I go from here? Does this mean that I will die in prison? There are plenty of options for prisoners when they are seeking parole in the United States. How does each state determine the qualifications for parole? I will show the differences between a few states and how offenders would be eligible for parole in these states. The qualifications for parole eligibility across the United States are inconsistent based on the state of conviction and the crime committed…..In the article “Criminal Justice: The Sentencing Mess” in Time Magazine, it states “In theory, U.S. penology long ago shifted from revenge to rehabilitation. Yet the U.S. is apparently the only country where a sentence of 120 years is even conceivable. “Our criminal laws are the most severe in the world,” says former U.S. Prisons Director James V. Bennett, “and our legislatures are still at work making them more severe.” As one result, amazing disparities exist between states. The time served for homicide in Texas is usually about 5½ years, in Illinois 16½ years. The maximum sentence for inducing abortion ranges from one year in Kansas to 20 years in Mississippi. For statutory rape, a man can get a $500 fine in Maine, ten years in New York, 50 years in California, 99 years in New Mexico, and death in Delaware.” This goes to show that there are many inconsistencies in the qualifications for parole eligibility across the Unites States. There are some crimes that in the state of Colorado someone has a less than 1% chance of being released on parole. Such crimes as sex crimes would fall into this category. Prisoners with these crimes are affected because of the 1998 Sex Act in the state of Colorado. According to the article “Felony Sex Offender Sentencing” by Philip Cherner, “When an offender is parole-eligible, the parole board must consider releasing the defendant to parole, but it may reject the application. In fact, so far, it has rejected every parole application under the Act since its inception in 1998.” This Act allows the courts to impose sentences that have no upper limit. This means that if an offender receives a sentence of 2 years to life they have to serve a minimum of the two years but under this Act may serve time for the rest of their natural life. This is a reality that has family members of convicted offenders in a situation that they do not know where to go from the point of conviction. ”
    Thank you,
    Jennifer from Colorado