In the state of Maryland, prison inmates serving life sentences can only be granted parole by final decree from the governor. Even for elderly inmates at high risk of COVID-19 infection, as well as inmates who were sentenced to life in prison before they were legal adults (i.e., when they were still children), Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has refused to use this power to grant parole to many who desperately need it. However, at the tail end of the latest legislative session, Maryland’s General Assembly passed the SB0202 bill, which repeals this rule, putting decision-making power in the hands of a parole commission.
In a recent episode of “Rattling the Bars” (originally published on March 22, 2021), TRNN Executive Producer Eddie Conway spoke with guests Pamela Sessoms, whose incarcerated fiancé contracted COVID-19 inside a Maryland prison, and Marc Schindler, the executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, about this parole policy. To help viewers understand SB0202, why it’s important, and what it will mean for inmates and their families, we have compiled sections from that conversation here.