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Hogan Calls For Release Of Many Non-Violent Offenders

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Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order Sunday that has the potential to free hundreds of inmates, as the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to grow in Maryland’s prisons.

The order directs Maryland’s Commissioner of Corrections to expedite the release of prisoners who are within three months of being paroled, who are over 60 and have a plan for home release and have not been convicted of a violent crime.

It would not apply, however, to those who have been convicted of sex offenses or those displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

Hogan said in the order that it is “reasonable to expect that certain inmates do not present a threat to public safety and will abide by the restrictions of alternative places of detention, provided there are plans to ensure access to places of residence, social services, and medical care.”

He said the inmates' close proximity to each other, employees and contractors creates a significant threat that the virus would spread to them as well as "the communities in which they live or to which they will return." 

The move comes as many in the criminal justice system have called for the release of nonviolent offenders during the pandemic and a week after Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of Maryland's highest court, issued an order instructing trial court judges to consider the coronavirus in their decisions. 

Among those advocating the release has been Sonia Kumar, Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

She issued a statement calling the governor’s order “a hard-won victory for the families, public health experts, advocates, and law enforcement officials who have been urging the Governor to reduce the number of people in detention since the earliest days of COVID-19.”

And she called on Hogan and other officials to include others "who can safely be released from" Maryland's prisons, calling it an important "human rights issue and racial justice issue." 

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