ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The governor of Maryland would have to decide within 180 days whether an inmate sentenced to life in prison should be paroled, if a state commission recommends it, under a bill passed by the state Senate 32-15 on Thursday.
An inmate would be released if the governor failed to act in that time on the commission’s recommendation.
Supporters of the measure have criticized second-term Gov. Martin O’Malley for never acting on parole recommendations for people with life sentences. Earlier this month, he denied seven commutations for the first time as governor, who has the last say on paroles.
Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, said the parole commission has assessment tools to determine whether someone would be dangerous if released. She also said the current governor’s lack of action ignores the fact that people can be rehabilitated.
“At the very least, we don’t need everybody locked up forever,” Kelley said.
Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, said the governor is “putting politics where it does not belong.”
“Sometimes compassion dictates how we should move, and quite frankly under this schemata that is presently in place, compassion goes out the window for politics,” Gladden said.
Sen. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, opposed the bill, because he said he didn’t think the law should be changed based on the actions of one governor.
“We need to be looking at our statute not based on individual incumbent governors, but over the long view, and for those reasons I don’t think this bill is necessary,” Shank said.
Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for the governor, said O’Malley would not veto a bill if the General Assembly passes legislation creating a deadline.
“The governor believes that the system that is in place provides the right balance between the role of the parole
commission and the role of the governor, who is directly elected by the people of this state,” Adamec said in a statement. “But if the General Assembly were to pass a time parameter to perform those duties, the governor would not be inclined to veto it.”
The House of Delegates also has passed a measure, but its version requires a decision to be made within 90 days. The
differences between the two bills would have to be worked out before going to O’Malley, a Democrat.
The bill currently would affect six inmates, according to Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)