ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – The House of Delegates approved a measure Tuesday which would limit the say of Maryland governors in the parole of violent offenders.
When the state’s parole board approves the release of a prisoner serving a life sentence, the governor has the final say. But the bill, which now moves to the Senate, would set a limit of 90 days from the parole board’s decision for the governor to make a call, after which the prisoner would be released.
The House narrowly approved the measure on a 74-66 vote, with three votes more than the minimum 71 needed for passage.
According to legislative analysts, there are 49 prisoners who have been approved for release, but who are awaiting word from Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. An O’Malley spokesman said he has not taken a position on the bill yet.
The proposal would make the governor accountable for deciding one way or another whether a prisoner is released, said Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery.
“‘You can run, but you cannot hide,’” he said, quoting Ronald Reagan in an appeal to Republican delegates.
But opponents recounted stories of repeat offenders who were released and attacked again.
“We’re not talking about nice people, and the default’s going to be ‘Let them go, let these folks out,’” said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert.
Delegate John Cluster, R-Baltimore County, a former police officer, cited the slaying last month of a Parkville High School student. The suspect in the shooting had been convicted of murder in 2003.
The Maryland Parole Commission, a 10-member board, can grant parole to prisoners serving life sentences after 15 years in jail and to prisoners convicted of first-degree murder after 25 years. Prisoners sentenced to life without parole cannot be released.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)