Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act Recap

A wooden gavel hits a wooden desk.

It has been one year since the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) was implemented. The Act’s initiation intended to help address hurdles in sentencing and correction policies and practices. Even with traditionally low crime rates, Maryland still imprisoned more than 20,000 people (disproportionately people of color). Not to mention the “tough on crime” agenda was costing the state billions of dollars with little impact on public safety. With the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), the state was able to utilize a data-driven process to pin-point areas of policy and practice improvement to reduce the number of lockups, mitigate costs, and defend public safety. Now that one year has passed since the enactment, it is time to reflect on the changes and areas for improvement in Maryland.

Leading a New Path Through Change

Overall, the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act seems to be making a positive impact. There has been a steady decline in prison populations with a streamlined treatment of drug crimes. The strategy is to hold prison spots open to those who are violent, repeat offenders, in addition to enforcing mandatory minimum sentences on high-level drug dealers. Changes have also been made for non-violent offenders, as caps have been placed on maximum sentences for those who violate probation on a technicality. Another major development is the prioritization of treatment over incarceration for those struggling with addiction, lowering wait times for psychiatric beds. The JRA’s new 21-day deadline adds further pressure to reduce average placement times.

Furthermore, under the JRA, expungement is permitted after ten years of good behavior with any parole, probation, or supervision, for misdemeanor charges. With 15 years of good behavior, expungement is authorized for second-degree assault, felony theft, intentional distribution of dangerous substances, and burglary in the first, second, and third degrees. Prior to the initiation of the Maryland JRA, only nuisance crimes like public urination qualified for expungement.

Areas for Improvement

Going forward, Maryland must ensure that the JRA can fulfill the goals outlined in the legislation. The JRA ushered in many new reforms to sentencing and treatment in Maryland. With that, it is essential that the state does not underutilize reforms and strives to implement proper documentation. Data reporting allows for the production of meaningful performance measures that track the implementation of the law changes. Currently, a quarterly brief is produced that oversees system-level trends in prison reform and public safety measures.

Another way to potentially further the impact of these new reforms is to reinvest savings into programs and people that have the capacity to reduce the scale of the criminal justice system, while simultaneously maximizing public safety.

Discuss the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act Changes With an Attorney

Such significant changes in the prison system can be difficult to understand. Let Seth Okin help you navigate these adjustments. He has years of experience specializing in Maryland criminal law and is ready to provide skilled legal representation. Call today for a complimentary case consultation.