JESSUP – Gov. Parris Glendening announced Thursday he will no longer consider parole for criminals sentenced to life.
At a news conference outside the Maryland House of Correction, Glendening said he wanted to send a message to “the predators” who commit violent crimes. “If you murder or rape in Maryland and you are sentenced to life in prison, you will serve life in prison,” he said.
Glendening recently denied parole for eight inmates recommended for parole by the Maryland Parole Board, and he cited those cases as a reason behind the new policy. “We have to ask the question, `What about the families of those who were murdered?’,” Glendening said.
The only exceptions to the no-parole policy would occur where inmates were very old or suffered from a terminal illness, Glendening said. He said those exceptions would be handled case- by-case.
The governor said the number of inmates with life sentences has risen to 1,756, up more than 60 percent in the last five years. Of those criminals, he said, 97 percent had been convicted of rape or murder.
“We simply cannot say that after 15 years, it doesn’t matter what the murderer or rapist did,” Glendening said.
To cope with the potential increase in prison population, Glendening has put together a task force, led by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Bishop Robinson, secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, to study alternative sentences for non-violent offenders.
Both Glendening and Townsend spoke about the central home detention program implemented in 1992, in which non-violent criminals are monitored without having to be put in prisons.
“Often, criminals say that many intermediate sentences are more difficult to serve,” Townsend said. “It takes a lot more work than just sitting in jail.”
Glendening said the sentencing task force should come up with a report in two months.
A number of officials praised Glendening’s proposal. “I believe today marks a milestone,” Robinson said. “The governor has put forth a responsible public policy which puts people’s safety first.”
The governor also produced a statement from Roberta Roper, whose daughter Stephanie was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Prince George’s County in 1982. “Victims’ families and the public deserve truth in sentencing,” Roper’s statement said. “Too many of us have learned from our very painful experiences that a life sentence does not mean that.” The lieutenant governor echoed Roper during her remarks. With this new policy, Townsend said, “life means life … it is a message that is right and just.” -30-