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Maryland lawmakers strip governor’s power to block parole

Maryland’s governors will no longer have the final say over whether inmates serving life sentences will be released on parole, following action by state lawmakers on Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan had objected to the change, vetoing a bill that took the governor out of the parole process. But the Maryland General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to overturn the Republican governor’s veto — first with a vote in the state Senate on Monday, followed by a vote in the House of Delegates on Tuesday night.

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Hogan and Republicans had argued that there need to be multiple safeguards before letting people out of prison who have committed the most heinous crimes and sentenced to life, mainly those convicted of first-degree murder.

And they pointed out that Hogan has granted parole and commutation more often than other recent governors.

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“It’s strange that they’re doing this now,” said Del. Jason Buckel, the House Republican leader from Western Maryland. “Governor Hogan is allegedly, from all evidence and research that’s conducted, he’s probably the governor who has taken this responsibility the most seriously.”

Del. Debra Davis, a Southern Maryland Democrat, countered that the parole process is “long and arduous” with multiple steps including psychological examinations and hearing input from victims and their families.

Supporters of removing the governor’s authority, including chief bill sponsor Sen. Delores Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, have said the change will depoliticize the parole process, leaving it in the hands of appointed parole commissioners, who have expertise in criminal justice.

The unofficial vote tally in the House was 92-46, following a 31-16 vote in the Senate the day prior.

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