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Former Maryland Governor Acknowledges Politics Behind Life Means Life Policy

Parris Glendening, who served as Maryland's governor from 1995 through 2002, has acknowledged, around a decade later, the role that politics played in his adoption of a "life means life" policy that effectively ended early release for prisoners sentenced to life with parole. [See: PLN, June 1996, p.7].

In an e-mail and interview with The Baltimore Sun, Glendening, a Democrat, expressed a measure of regret over his lifer policy, at least to the extent that he had "made it absolute." Glendening explained that the perception among legislators and the public at the time was that criminals sentenced to life or long terms of incarceration were being released after serving only a few years, and then threatening the same people they had originally victimized. He acknowledged, however, there was little hard evidence that that had actually occurred.

Glendening's comments came in response to an editorial supporting a measure to take the governor – and politics – out of the parole process, leaving such decisions to the Maryland Parole Commission. Maryland is one of three states where the governor can overturn parole recommendations for lifers. Glendening indicated he would "not have a problem" with such a change in state law. "Bottom line, you are correct that the parole system must be reformed and made far less political," he said.

The former governor also stated that his views on the death penalty had changed over the years and he now "strongly opposes" capital punishment, viewing it as a "terrible vestige of a different time in our history." Glendening, who oversaw two executions as governor, ordered a moratorium on executions in May 2002 shortly before leaving office. He said his "life means life" policy was also intended to promote life without parole as an alternative to capital punishment.

On May 2, 2013, current Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law a bill that repealed the state's death penalty, though the bill does not apply to prisoners already on death row. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.44]. During his tenure, Governor O'Malley has declined to grant parole to any life-sentenced prisoners – a dismal track record that he should reconsider given Glendening's comments on that issue.

Source: The Baltimore Sun

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