The conservative approach to criminal justice:
fighting crime, supporting victims, and protecting taxpayers.

“Comprehensive and Common Sense Justice Reform in Md.”

| January 14, 2016

Yesterday in the Baltimore Sun, Right on Crime signatory Robert Ehrlich highlights a comprehensive justice reform package released last month in Maryland that seeks to “further reduce the state’s incarcerated population, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.”

Compiled by the “Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Panel,” which convened upon Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature of legislation during the 2015 session, the package addresses years worth of growing expenses in Maryland that has lead to, in Ehrlich’s words, a “bloated and inefficient” corrections system:

“For example, last year the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services accounted for nearly 14 percent of the total state workforce and 7.1 percent of expenditures from the general fund. State spending on corrections has increased by 10 percent since 2006, adjusted for inflation.”

Ehrlich continues by recognizing that while lengthy prison sentences are necessary punishments for violent offenders, non-violent offenders, on the other hand, often respond better to alternative options that include community supervision, as other states such as Texas have discovered. This goes beyond the simple fiscal consideration that alternatives to imprisonment tend to cost fewer dollars to maintain. Incarcerating both populations together for extended periods risks inculcating non-violent offenders into a culture of criminality common among more serious or repeat offenders–making the former more of a risk upon release than when they went in:

“Prisons are an important and necessary tool for public safety — “Job One” for every public official. Violent offenders should be incarcerated for great lengths of time. Yet, far too often, low-level, non-violent individuals are swept into correctional facilities when they could otherwise be supervised in the community, thereby saving taxpayers money and allowing individuals to work, pay taxes and successfully reintegrate into society.

“Recent data reflect a trend toward longer sentences for all types of offenses, including non-violent crime, increasing overall by 25 percent over the past 10 years. Further, 40 percent of offenders find themselves back in prison within three years — a terrible indictment of our re-entry practice and procedure.”

Maryland has the opportunity through this justice reinvestment package to draw on the same successes that conservative states such as Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and others have achieved in reducing crime, improving re-entry outcomes, and saving taxpayer money.

Ehrlich’s entire column in the Baltimore Sun can be found here.


MICHAEL HAUGEN is a policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and its Right on Crime initiative.

His work for the Foundation has focused primarily on criminal justice reform topics, particularly civil forfeiture, prison reform and justice reinvestment, mens rea reform, occupational licensing, and various law enforcement and privacy issues. He’s also written about federal corporate subsidies, school choice, and gun rights.

Haugen is a graduate of Eastern Washington University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with Pre-Medicine Option, and a minor in Chemistry. He also holds an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies from North Idaho College. At EWU, he participated in academic research in a molecular microbiology laboratory for two years, investigating genetic virulence factors and pathophysiology in microbes.

His writing has appeared in National Review, The Hill, Townhall, Washington Examiner, Dallas Morning News, El Paso Times, Trib Talk, RedState, Ricochet, and Breitbart Texas.