A few years ago, FAMM joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national organization of conservative state lawmakers. Our goal was to help ALEC develop a new approach to criminal justice issues, including to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This effort was successful. ALEC recently adopted a model safety valve bill for conservative lawmakers to use in reforming their state mandatory sentencing laws.
One ALEC member who used the safety valve model was Maryland State Senator Michael Hough. Last year, he helped push through the Maryland legislature the broadest safety valve law in the country. The new law has had the practical effect of making mandatory minimum laws no longer mandatory. Judges are free to depart from a mandatory minimum in any drug case in which the court thinks the minimum is not needed to protect public safety or would result in a substantial injustice to the defendant.
FAMM remains engaged in Maryland and recently helped move the Justice Reinvestment Act, a bill that eliminates the crack and powder cocaine disparity as well as eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for low-level offenders. The bill was signed into law by Governor Hogan on May 19, 2016. Learn more about what the Justice Reinvestment Act does by clicking here.
While in Maryland for the bill signing, FAMM sat down with Senator Michael Hough (R) and Delegate Erek Barron (D) to discuss the need for sentencing reform. Despite their partisan differences, the Justice Reinvestment Act has brought two parties together to better our criminal justice system.
Check out this poll that showed an overwhelming 70% of Maryland residents support repealing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
How You Can Advocate for Sentencing Reform in Your State
You can do several things to work toward reforming your state’s sentencing laws – go to our get involved page to find out how.
Encourage your state lawmakers to support mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Be sure to connect with FAMM and other sentencing reformers on Facebook, Twitter, and by signing up for our email list.
Sentencing/Criminal Justice Reform Groups in this State:
Originally seen in Governing. Maryland’s highest court adopted a landmark rule Tuesday aimed at ending the practice of holding criminal defendants in jail before trial when they cannot afford bail. The seven-member Court of Appeals unanimously agreed on a compromise that does not abolish money bail, as some advocates have urged, but instructs judges and… Read more »
Originally seen in Wall Street Journal. BALTIMORE—Long burdened by one of the worst heroin problems in the U.S., Baltimore is joining a small but growing number of cities where police can divert low-level drug offenders to treatment, rather than send them to jail. The move toward a diversion program—before an offender is booked on charges—is the… Read more »
(Washington Post) — About 1,600 prisoners serving long sentences in Maryland will become eligible for early release in October 2017, just as the state does away with mandatory minimum prison time for newly convicted, nonviolent drug offenders. Taken together, advocates said, the changes put Maryland at the forefront of states that are adopting major criminal-justice reform…. Read more »
For immediate release Contact: Leila McDowell firstname.lastname@example.org 202 822 6706 Says new criminal justice law should be model for congress Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) today applauded Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for signing the Justice Reinvestment Act, bipartisan legislation that retroactively eliminates mandatory minimums for low-level offenders, ends the disparity between crack and powder cocaine… Read more »