Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good-time credits for predators

During this year's session of the Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers are demonstrating the arrogant contempt for the public that one-party liberalism breeds. Few subjects better illustrate what is dysfunctional about Annapolis than the politicians' failure to address to the issue of providing "good time" credits (e.g., good-behavior credits) that can substantially reduce prison sentences for violent sexual predators. In recent weeks. legislators have spent time bloviating about subjects such as the Towson College song and issues such as what Maryland's official state exercise should be (walking).

But judging from what has taken thus far, every indication is that legislation to toughen the laws dealing with sexual predators will die a quiet death in the Maryland General Assembly due to public apathy and the determination of prominent Democratic politicians to bury it.

Right now, there are at least three bills to fix the problem, two of which are languishing in the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Del. Joseph Vallario of Prince George's — who has done his best to make his panel a graveyard for legislation that increases penalties on criminals. A third bill, introduced by Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford Republican, is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee chaired by Sen. Brian Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat, who is every bit as hostile to such legislation as Mr. Vallario. Last year, Mr. Frosh attempted to bury in his committee legislation to impose a mandatory 25-year prison sentence with no possibility of parole for persons convicted of a first-degree sexual offense against a child. We fully expect Mr. Frosh to fight Mrs. Jacobs's proposal.

Last year, Mr. Frosh was forced to relent after Senate President Mike Miller realized that that position was a political loser, and forced Mr. Frosh to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. Public clamor for tougher sentences forced the politicians' hands. The bill passed the Senate 43-3 and the House of Delegates 139-0 and was signed into law. Only months later, voters learned that last year's bill contained a huge loophole: It did nothing about good-time credits that can reduce sentences by nearly a third. And this year, all indications are that Maryland voters have returned to their more docile, apathetic ways. So, the General Assembly will continue to give more consideration to silliness like the state exercise than to keeping violent predators away from children.

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