By Alyssa Eng
BALTIMORE, MD – Maryland State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that her Sentencing Review Unit has arranged for the release of 50 inmates since its inception in December 2020, and none of those released have since committed another offense.
The SRU was created to address mass incarceration and overcrowding of Maryland’s prisons, said Mosby. Of the 18,000 people incarcerated in the state of Maryland, over 72 percent are Black.
The SRU, explained Mosby, reviews old convictions to determine whether sentences are still appropriate in light of any growth and rehabilitation displayed by the inmate.
The unit currently reviews cases of inmates who have served more than 20 years for crimes committed as juveniles, or have served more than 25 years for crimes committed as young adults.
The unit also will review cases of individuals who have a documented medical condition that places them at high risk of illness or death if they contract Covid-19 and are over age 60, as well as having served over 25 years of a life sentence.
The unit follows up by investigating other aspects of the case including but not limited to speaking with the victim/next of kin, speaking with the prosecutor who handled the case, facts of the case, mitigating circumstances, changes in sentencing practices, behavior while incarcerated, certificates of achievement, letters of support, time spent in prison, age of the individual, medical conditions, remorse, positive development, family/community support, and likelihood of reoffense.
“Prosecutors have historically played a role contributing to the epidemic of mass incarceration and racial inequity in this country by making excessive sentence recommendations and we have a responsibility to right that wrong. SAOs across the country should use their authority, autonomy and discretion to review and revise sentences of individuals who no longer present a threat to society,” said Mosby.
The SRU is also urging reform in treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. Mosby and her team previously testified in favor of the Juvenile Restoration Act, which prevents juveniles from being sentenced to life in prison without parole and allows courts to reconsider sentences for inmates who have spent at least 20 years in prison for crimes committed as a juvenile.
SRU Division Chief Becky Feldman maintains, “Prosecutors should be responsible for ensuring that the sentences of people who are still in prison after many decades continue to be fair and reasonable under our most current standards. And in reviewing these older cases, we can also create a bigger space for redemption and rehabilitation in the criminal justice system, which can serve to heal us all.”
The SRU also partners with Restorative Response Baltimore to provide therapy to victims’ families and former inmates to promote community connection and restorative dialogue. Participants can opt out of participating in dialogue on restorative justice and the unit will instead connect them with the Victims and Witness Services unit for services such as lifetime grief counseling.