Maryland State Senate Unanimously Passes Justice Reinvestment Act
On March 24, 2016, the Maryland State Senate passed Senate Bill 1005 (S.B. 1005), titled Justice Reinvestment Act, by a 46-0 vote. S.B. 1005 requires the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to evaluate a defendant and provide an assessment regarding whether or not the defendant would benefit from mental health or substance abuse treatment. In addition, it permits a judge to incorporate a certain risk assessment of an individual during sentencing for simple possession of a controlled dangerous substance. Furthermore, the bill permits judges the discretion to depart from the mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, low-risk offenders. Maryland state Senator Michael Hough stated:
“We have a compromise in front of you that is the largest reform of our criminal justice system in a generation. This bill will reduce the number of people incarcerated, rehabilitate non-violent offenders, save taxpayer dollars and refocus our resources on violent offenders.”
The ALEC models Resolution on Diversion of Low-Level Drug Possession Offenders and Recidivism Reduction Act both seek to reduce incarceration rates by keeping nonviolent, low-risk offenders from becoming incarcerated. Additionally, these models, like S.B. 1005, allow for taxpayer funds to be focused on violent and dangerous offenders, thus not compromising public safety.
This bill represents the second significant criminal justice reform measure that the Maryland Senate has passed unanimously this session. A civil asset forfeiture reform measure, Senate Bill 161 (S.B. 161), recently passed by a 46-0 vote. This demonstrates that criminal justice reform is an issue where Republicans and Democrats can unite and pass legislation in a bipartisan manner.