House of Delegates Moves Forward with Reform to De-Politicize Parole Decisions

    Three Republican amendments to a proposal that would remove the governor from parole decisions were rejected by the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

    Maryland is one of just a handful of states that still require the governor to agree to parole board recommendations for parole and commutation of life sentences. No person sentenced to life was released on parole for more than two decades due to Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s “life means life” policy from the 1990s.

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is the first governor to sign off on a parole recommendation since the late William Donald Schaefer (D), Glendening’s predecessor. In recent years, Glendening has called his stance a “serious mistake” and has advocated for legislative reform, most recently penning a Washington Post column published this week.

    House Bill 3, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) and Del. Pamela Queen (D-Montgomery), is the legislature’s latest attempt to de-politicize the process by removing the requirement that the governor sign off.

    Republicans unsuccessfully sought to put additional requirements on the bill Wednesday, citing concerns that lifers could be let out prematurely by the parole board.

    “Some of these people should not be back out in society,” said Del. Brian A. Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel), who put forward an amendment that would have required inmates serving a life sentence get a  “unanimous agreement” from the state’s parole board in order to be released.

    That amendment was rejected in a 91-41 vote.

    Chisholm’s amendment wasn’t the only unsuccessful attempt to change the bill: House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) proposed gradually phasing out the governor’s authority based on how long a “lifer” had served; and Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington County) sought to eliminate confinement credits from counting toward parole.

    Clippinger pushed back on attempts to change the bill, noting that such “liberal bastions” as Oklahoma have removed the governor’s say in life parole. The bill could see final passage in the House as early as Thursday.

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    Bennett Leckrone
    Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch,, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.