MD Prison Population Down, Leads U.S. in Decline

Maryland’s prison population — which has been decreasing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the U.S. — continues to shrink, the Baltimore Sun reports. From October 2017 through the end of last month, the number of people locked up in Maryland’s prisons fell an additional 1.3 percent, continuing a multiyear drop. Figures presented Thursday to the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board showed that 18,998 people were incarcerated by the state June 30, down from 19,242 in the fall. Incarceration rates at local jails run by counties across the state are also decreasing, said Angelina Guarino of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

The panel is overseeing implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which seeks to divert nonviolent offenders from prison to drug treatment and other programs. In 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill that ended various mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expanded expungement of misdemeanor records, and reformed the ways parole violations are handled and good-time credits are calculated. As the prison population declines, Maryland expects to see financial savings from housing inmates. The plan is for those savings to be used for local crime prevention grants, such as drug abuse treatment and mental health treatment. Board members said it would be months — if not years — before the savings can be calculated and used for grants. At the time of the bill’s passage, legislative analysts estimated that $2.2 million in grants could be awarded in 2019 from projected savings. In May, the Vera Institute of Justice said Maryland was leading a national trend of states reducing their prison populations. Maryland had a 9.6 percent drop in prison inmates in 2017. That was more than 2 percentage points greater than the decline registered in the second-ranking states, Connecticut and Rhode Island.