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Mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders

Bill headed for passage on last day of session
Posted at 6:25 PM, Apr 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-09 18:35:25-04

While Governor Larry Hogan’s comprehensive crime bill died in the house, two measures aimed at curbing crime in Baltimore are well on the way to passage.

One bill sets a mandatory minimum sentence for the second conviction of a violent crime while using a gun.

The sentence would be 10 years, no suspended time, no discretion for the judge.

It is that kind of certainty Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello says could make a huge difference in Baltimore.

"I think that this sends the message that illegal guns, illegal possession of guns, using an instrument of death in our communities is not acceptable," the councilman said.

It was the same message Costello and some other members of the Baltimore City Council tried to send last summer by trying to pass a similar city ordinance for illegal gun possession.

The penalty then would be a mandatory one year in prison for your second infraction of illegally carrying a firearm, but that city ordinance was softened a bit before ultimately being signed by the mayor.

Today, the councilman is happy to see the state picked up the mantle and seems set to pass a tough bill on tough crime.

"It would reduce violent crime throughout the city,” Costello said, “There are individuals who have committed violent crimes, who are out on probation, who have been let off and have not faced appropriate consequences for those actions."

The Baltimore Police Department today struck the same tone saying that its focus has always been on repeat violent offenders.

But watching the flurry of bills passing on Sine Die from up in the gallery in the state house was Adam Jackson, CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle.

His voice is in opposition to mandatory minimums and feels they are a step back in criminal justice reform, but also points to the recent corruption of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force as a cautionary tale.

"Because of that corruption and because of that harassment, because of that malfeasance and violation of the public trust, that has caused a lot of black folks, in particular, to be swept up in the criminal justice system,” Jackson said, “And so the idea that just incarcerating people and increasing sentences for people will somehow decrease crime just doesn't make any sense by logical standards."

Still, the bill passed the house this weekend and is now in consideration along with hundreds of other bills on the final day of the session, in part because the crime legislation also pledges money for programs like Baltimore's Safe Streets and creates more opportunities for record expungement.

In total, these bills do not equal the omnibus crime bill originally proposed by Governor Larry Hogan, but they do contain measures he favors.