Term Paper: Maryland Prison System Crime

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[. . .] Much of the criticism and backlash attacks "three strikes" laws as being an ill-advised policy, a quick fix solution to the dynamic problem of crime, a policy with no or at best modest deterrent effect, and lastly, a financial burden to the correctional community and taxpayers. Furthermore, critics say, this law, which currently has been adopted by thirty-seven states, contains many inconsistencies across the states. Some of these inconsistencies include what crimes (violent or nonviolent) actually count as a strike, the possibility of parole or no parole, whether the person should be sentenced as a habitual offender, and whether the offender should receive a mandatory life sentence. In response, some states such as Washington suggest that "three strikes" laws are effective given proper implementation (http://www.msccsp.org/publications/strikes.html).

The study cited above found that three-strikes laws across the nation (including in Maryland) tend to imprison non-violent offenders rather than those individuals who present a significant risk of harm to the community, have little if any deterrent effect, and are extremely costly to the taxpayer. These results are summarized below:

According to experts "three strikes" laws have not had a significant impact on reducing crime.

In terms of deterrence, the evidence suggests that "three strikes" policy has had modest to little effects. The main objective of this policy, to incarcerate violent offenders, has been neglected for the most part. Most offenders receiving sentences under three strikes have been drug, property, or other non-violent types of offenders. In California, the DOC reported that 57.9% of third strike cases involved non-violent offenses as were 69% of second strike cases (King & Mauer, 2001).

So the question remains is "three strikes" a sensible policy? The majority of the research presents a negative view of the policy, however, some researchers point out that it is difficult to determine because of the downward crime trend occurring nationally and other economic changes taking place since the early 1990s. One consistent projection is that "three strikes" laws will contribute substantially to the aging of the prison system. This poses a serious threat to the correctional system in future years, being that elderly inmates, those 50 and over, require more expenditures for health care and other special needs than a younger prisoner. Current estimates are that it will cost $1.5 million to incarcerate an elderly prisoner for the minimum 25 years, which is the sentence given if convicted on third strike (King & Mauer, 2001). (http://www.msccsp.org/publications/strikes.html).

The picture painted by this summary is grim for Maryland as it is for other states.

Alternatives to Incarceration

The state is currently attempting to reduce its overall prison population through reducing the time spent in prison and jail by inmates seeking other methods of control of felons that do not involve the prison system at all.

One of the most popular of these programs is a system of "good conduct" credits that allows prisoners to shorten their own sentences through work details, good behavior, and education. These programs (used in almost every state) help to rein in the cost of incarceration, often substantially, as is suggested in the table below, which summarizes the amount of time that each prisoner can shorten his or her sentence by:

Programs

Western Maryland

Allegany County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work release program, 5 days per month; Special credit for GED program, JSAP (drug and alcohol program), up to 5 days per month.

Central Maryland

Baltimore County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work inside facility and for GED classes, 5 days per month; Special credit or a housing credit for "double celling" due to overcrowding, 5 days per month. Also due to overcrowding, inmates participating in the home detention program and in the work release program also receive a housing credit, 5 days per month. Inmates can receive a maximum of 15 days credit per month.

Calvert County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work detail in facility and work release program, 5 days per month; Special credit for GED program, 1 day for every 5 classes completed; "Live In Work Out" Program (18-month DOC sentence suspended to work release program in local facility) not eligible for good conduct credit.

Carroll County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work both inside and outside facility such as kitchen or sanitation duty, 5 days per month; Special credit for work outside facility with county such as roadside crew, 5 days per month.

Howard County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work inside facility, 5 days per month; Special credit for work release program or home detention 5 days per month. Inmates can receive 10 days maximum per month, 5 days good conduct and 5 days from either Industrial or Special.

Montgomery County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work outside facility and for program participation (education, drug and alcohol treatment), 5 days per month; Special credit for community corrections prerelease program, for program like home detention, and work inside facility such as kitchen work, 5 days per month. Inmates can receive a maximum of 15 days credit per month.

Prince George's County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work inside the facility, 5 days per month; Special credit for weekly inspections, 5 days per month. Two types of sanctions that result in revoking diminution credits: home detention sanctions, where only the Director may take away credits for violations, and in- house sanctions for disciplinary reasons, where credits can be taken away from prisoners physically housed in the facility by correctional administrators other than the Director. Inmates can receive a maximum of 15 days credit per month.

Eastern Maryland

Somerset County: Good conduct credit, 5 days per month; Industrial credit for work inside the facility, 5 days per month; Special credit for work outside facility such as landfill detail, 5 days per month. Inmates can receive a maximum of 15 days credit per month. (http://www.msccsp.org/publications/issues_aging.html)

Another strategy that the state is experimenting with involves "home incarceration" in which a prisoner is fitted with an electronic device that alerts authorities if he or she leaves a certain area. This is a far cheaper solution than any other that is now being used by the state of Maryland:

The easiest way to solve the overcrowded prison problem is, simply, not to arrest so many people. That will never happen as it cannot be justified. Another alternative, to build more prisons or add on to existing ones, will cost a great deal. Home confinement is the best solution; the offender does not take up space in prison and can hold a job or take care of familial obligation. If a prisoner is under house arrest, it seems nothing prevents him from escaping. In most cases, flight is not a viable option for the home confined. Their sentence is usually light and the reasons for staying outweigh the reasons to run. Still, these offenders can be fitted with wrist or ankle transponders, monitoring devices that alert the authorities if the prisoner leaves his home without authorization, to assure their cooperation. They are allowed to go to work and participate in other selected activities, but their location is known at all times. The device will also alert authorities if it is tampered with; so you cannot simply remove it (Internet). The idea of electronic monitors to track the location of prisoners first arose in the 1960's when Dr. Ralph Schwitzgebel researched, developed, and tested a device capable of doing so. These devices constantly transmit over the telephone or over radio waves (McCarthy 137). Once the prisoner completes his sentence, the device is removed. This seems to be a good idea - it allows someone to be punished but it does not put a halt to their life in general or contribute to the overpopulation of a prison (http://webpages.marshall.edu/~oldaker1/paper3.html).

Other alternatives are, of course, possible as well, including probation for non-violent drug offenses. More such programs to save the state money are needed given its precarious financial state:

Like all cash-strapped governments, Maryland is looking for ways to maintain core services while reducing enough costs to balance the budget. Already, cuts have been made in a number of agencies, with higher education taking one of the most significant hits. For the 2004 fiscal year, reductions have been proposed in funding for child care assistance, local school aid and transportation (http://www.rppi.org/outsourcingmaryland.html).

Reform Inside the Big House

While the most effective way to reduce the effects of the correctional budget on other elements of the state's economy is to reduce the number of prisoners, there are other strategies that might be tried as well. Currently prisoners are at high risk of contracting HIV in prison, which is (in addition to the personal tragedy) a significant cost for the state of Maryland

The prison system explicitly acknowledges the right of prisoners to receive medical treatment as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Maryland Prison System Crime.  (2003, November 16).  Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/maryland-prison-system-crime/7470493

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