In Maryland's tradition of granting executive clemency at Christmastime, Gov. William Donald Schaefer has commuted the sentences of 22 inmates imprisoned on a variety of charges.
Mr. Schaefer, who was recuperating from the flu at the governor's mansion yesterday, signed the executive order commuting the sentences Dec. 16, and the inmates began leaving the state prison system yesterday. All 22 inmates were scheduled to leave prison before March 1.
"These inmates would have gotten out in the next three months anyway, and it's traditional for the governor of the state to commute the sentences of certain inmates each Christmas," said Page W. Boinest, the governor's press secretary.
Mr. Schaefer last year also commuted the sentences of 22 inmates, a number that has remained about the same since he took office in 1987, when he commuted the sentences of 26 inmates later that year.
Those numbers are a far cry from the hundreds of inmates released at Christmas in years past under other governors, such as the 337 inmates former Gov. Marvin Mandel released in 1976.
Records of the 22 inmates were reviewed by Correction Commissioner Richard A. Lanham Sr., as well as by the Maryland Parole Commission, and all were recommended for early release. The inmates will be treated as parolees under supervision of the Division of Parole and Probation for the balance of their sentences.
Their crimes included assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to maim, drug possession and distribution, robbery with a deadly weapon and handgun violations.
Eighteen of the 22 inmates being released were ordered to participate in substance abuse therapy while on parole. All but one of the inmates were sentenced since 1987, and the average sentence length was just over nine years.
Under Maryland law, the length of an inmate's overall sentence is reduced by so-called "good time" credits, which automatically are awarded at a rate of five days a month for each month of the sentence. Inmates lose the credits only because of infractions while in prison.
Inmates also can reduce their time behind bars by earning additional credits through educational and vocational programs.
All of the inmates scheduled for release took part in a program called Mutual Agreement Program, which guarantees a release date for inmates if they agree to take part in self-improvement activities, such as job training and drug treatment.