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Bill would take governor's office out of parole decisions

This piece originally appread on WBAL-TV.


Annapolis lawmakers are considering legislation that takes Gov. Larry Hogan's office out of having the final say about parole decisions.

The bill would also increase the time lifers must serve before they are eligible for parole.

The governor's office has had the final say in parole recommendations since the mid-1990s. Critics considered it a political, get tough-on-crime decision. Bill supporters want the parole board, whose members are appointed by the governor, to have the final word.

Stanley Mitchell spent 38 years in prison for driving a getaway car in a felony robbery. He said 22 of them were tacked on because the governor's office denied parole, even after the board recommended his release.

"Times as they say a model prisoner, I did everything that I was told to do, college, you name it, I took it. I graduated; I was recommended for parole. I was denied," Mitchell said.

Maryland is one of only three states that allow the governor's office to have the final say on parole board recommendations.

"What this bill would do is finally remove the governor from the parole process as it relates to people serving life sentences eligible for parole," said Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.

"Our parole commission is well positioned to make determinations about prisoners who come before them. They have 11 factors they have to consider. That includes factors that involve the victims and the victim's family," said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery County.

According to the state Department of Corrections, in the past five years, the parole board made 135 recommendations for parole. Hogan agreed to parole 19 people, including four for medical reasons. Bill supporters, including Mitchell, believe the parole board should have the final say.

"I don't have time for anger. It's a waste of emotion. They released me with $18 and a handshake and told me to do the best that I can," Mitchell said.

The bill also increases the time served to be eligible for parole from 15 to 20 years. The measure has the backing of two key committee chairs, which could the bill's influence passage.

This piece originally appread on WBAL-TV.



Posted in JPI in the News

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