Murder victims’ families advocate to end early prison release in Maryland

The families of murder victims are urging Maryland lawmakers to rethink early releases for people that commit violent crimes.

Several testified Tuesday before the state Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee on a new bill that would close off credits earned for good behavior for convicted murderers.

“Too often, our headlines are filled with stories of violent crime victims whose lives ended tragically at the hands of someone with a history of violent crime, who was released back into the community after serving just a few years in prison,” said Sen. William Folden of Frederick County, who sponsors the Safe Communities Act of 2024.

Under the bill, people convicted of first- and second-degree murder would be ineligible to receive the diminution credits — points awarded to prisoners for good behavior that can get them an early release. People convicted of other violent crimes would have credits capped at 10% of their sentence.

Gale Seaton testified about how the man responsible for the killing of her pregnant daughter was out of prison after just 10 years.

“He worked two half-jobs a day and got double dim credit, took repeated courses of counseling — got credits every single time,” Seaton said.

Linda Duncan has been advocating for cutting diminution points for murders for years. Her mother was killed in 1990. Her killer was convicted over 15 years later and was released from prison after 10 years on a 40-year sentence.

“They’re not even serving 50% of the time,” she told the committee. “We are sending the wrong message, you don’t pay for someone to behave.”

Some advocates at Tuesday’s Senate hearing pushed back, saying it is a too broad a brush.

“I have seen those, even with first- and second-degree murder raps, who have received the diminution credit and have, I have seen them give back to the community,” Cashenna Cross said. “For those who have given their service and lifeblood to recoup and recover, let’s give them an opportunity.”

The Racial Equity Impact Note attached to the bill said it “could potentially work to discourage positive behaviors among inmates currently incarcerated for murder.”

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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