April 8, 2011

Blog update:Governor given deadline on a parole recommendations for lifers; O’Malley will sign bill

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Gov. Martin O'Malley

Gov. Martin O'Malley

A bill that would give the governor six months to reject a recommendation for parole for someone who is serving a life sentence in prison is heading to the governor’s desk, and a spokesman said he will sign the bill.

After about an hour of debate Friday afternoon on the House version of the bill, which has been controversial throughout its time in the General Assembly, the House voted 75-65 to pass it.

According to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s press secretary, “The governor has believed all along that the system as it stands works, however the General Assembly has a role in this process as well and if they feel that a time limit will help improve the process, than the governor can be supportive of that.”

The bill approved by the House of Delegates on Friday is the version that initially came out of the House, which was amended and approved by the Senate to allow 180, not 90 days.

Much of the debate focused on the crimes of the people who are serving life prison sentences. People sentenced to life need to stay in prison, they argued.

“Mercy is for God,” said Del. Patrick McDonough, R-Baltimore-Harford counties. “We need justice.”

Del. Tiffany Alston, D-Prince Georges, agreed that the state needs justice. People who are given life sentences with the possibility of parole deserve for that possibility to be a reality. Too often, she said, governors fail to take action on parole recommendations, and the inmates stay in prison.

“We do ourselves a disservice by failing to act,” she said.

The bill and its Senate companion has had its up and downs throughout the session as documented in four different MarylandReporter.com stories — Thursday, April 5, March 18, and March 8 — and numerous mentions in State Roundup.

–Megan Poinski

Megan@MarylandReporter.com