ACLU Picks Fight With Maryland Gov. Over ‘Tough On Crime’ Bills

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its allies slammed Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s new crime bills Wednesday, claiming he was trying to wind back the clock with outdated criminal policies, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Hogan’s legislation would institute a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for repeat gun offenses and hike the number of juveniles treated as adults by Maryland’s justice system, according to the Sun. Maryland ACLU Public Policy Director Toni Holness claimed the governor’s goal is “filling our prisons with black or brown bodies”– an accusation vehemently denied by Hogan’s office.

“These bills would bloat our prisons, waste precious taxpayer dollars and exacerbate existing racial disparities that permeate every aspect of our criminal justice system,” Holness said in a statement. “They have never made us safer and they will not make us safer ever.”

Hogan’s chief legislative officer, Christopher Shank, disagreed.

“I would characterize it as an outrageous and dishonest claim that they’re making,” he told the Sun. “It is totally contradicted by the facts of this administration. We are prioritizing our prison beds for violent repeat offenders and that’s exactly what these bills do.”

Beyond the gun crimes bill, Hogan’s legislation would prevent lifers from getting a parole hearing until they’ve served 25 years. The current requirement is 15. The bills would also allow minors over the age of 16 to be tried as adults for gang-related crimes.

Hogan is one of few governors to buck national trends toward soft-sentencing reforms. He has placed himself solidly in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ camp in advocating for “tough on crime” policies such as mandatory minimum sentences. Many others on both sides of the aisle argue these policies result in overly-long sentences and therefore overcrowded prisons.

President Donald Trump has thrown in his support for prison reforms and rehabilitation efforts to ensure that inmates stay out of prison once they’re released.

“As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens,” Trump said Tuesday night at his State of the Union address. “That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”

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