Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation Thursday aimed at reducing the state prison population by more than 1,000 inmates while plowing millions of dollars into crime prevention, reports the Baltimore Sun.
The state's broadest criminal justice legislation in decades will reduce sentencing guidelines for drug dealers, thieves, and other offenders, while increasing the number of crimes that can be wiped from an offender's record fivefold.
Users of illegal drugs will be steered toward treatment, not incarceration. And new rules will help the state go after criminal gangs.
The Justice Reinvestment Act, a document of more than 100 pages, is a seismic shift from policies adopted during the late-20th century war on drugs, which critics say led to governments wasting money on incarceration that did little to increase public safety.
By reducing the Maryland prison population by about 1,100 people over the next 10 years, officials expect to save an estimated $80 million that can be redirected toward programs intended to prevent crime.
But some say doing away with mandatory minimum sentences was a mistake, as was reducing sentences for some drug offenses. Others bemoan the increased penalty for second-degree murder, and say not enough other penalties have been reduced.
Most of the bill's provisions go into effect in October 2017. Some will become law this October.