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University of Baltimore Law Forum

Abstract

The numerous cries for reform of the United States criminal justice system in recent time are not without merit based on an examination of the prison population. Despite violent crime being at record low rates in the United States, the prison population has expanded tremendously. On the global stage, the United States is the leader in incarceration rates. The United States has more people incarcerated than any other country, including China, Russia, and India. Looking at a local level, Maryland is not immune to this trend. In Maryland, while violent crime is on the decline, the amount of time an offender spends in prison has increased by 23%, or nearly seven months. Unfortunately, this is not without racial implications. The increase in prison sentences, as well as the lower rates of parole release, has led to a disproportionate effect on black offenders. In 2014, black offenders in Maryland were sentenced to thirty-six months longer than white offenders while controlling for broad offense type and adult criminal history category.

Calls for reform abound. Too often the policy created to address such issue is the proverbial square peg being forced into a round hole. This has not been the case in Maryland and in many jurisdictions across the country. Rather the focus of such reform began in 2010 with an innovative pilot study in Justice Reinvestment. This was the foundation for what became the Justice Reinvestment Act in Maryland.

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