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Legislation could change state parole process

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Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 20:09:59-05
People sentenced to life with the possibility of parole could remain behind bars, even when a parole board says they shouldn't. A senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on whether or not the state's governor should keep the final authority in that decision.
 
Parole is given to prison inmates when they meet a set of given requirements from the parole board, but supporters of senate bill 531 and a companion version in the house, say there's been something slowing the process down, and they say it's it's the office of governor.
 
A person given a sentence of life with parole is eligible for that parole after 15 years. If they get a favorable recommendation from either of the state's two parole boards, the final say is given to the governor.
 
However, two recent governors -- Gov.'s Parris Glendening and Martin O'Malley decided not to sign off on any releases. While Gov. Larry Hogan hasn't had any such cases come before him, supporters believe it's time to take the role of the governor from the equation altogether.
 
"The governor appoints, with the approval of the senate, the parole commissioners, and as a result, [potential parolee] are being vetted through that process," said Walter Lomax, who represented the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative.
 
Lomax was released from prison in 2006 after serving 40 years when he was found guilty of a 1968 murder. Prosecutors have said during Lomax's initial trial, the state didn't give key evidence to Lomax's defense attorney.
 
"[Parole commissioners] should be the people to decide whether [inmates] are released on parole or not, as opposed to someone who could potentially have a political concern," Lomax said of the legislation.
 
A spokesperson for Gov. Hogan didn't respond to a request for comment.