Rulings prompt release of 38 jail inmates
Court hearings focused on new good-time credit allowances at county detention center
Thirty-eight inmates in the St. Mary’s jail are being released, the county sheriff’s second in command confirmed Friday, following a series of rulings in the county’s circuit court and hearings on good-time credit allowances during their custody.
The recent courtroom debates before Circuit Judge Michael J. Stamm focused in part on whether the provisions of the state’s Justice Reinvestment Act, which went into effect last fall, apply not only to inmates now being sentenced for their recent offenses, but also to inmates put back in jail for violating the terms of their probation.
“The judge puts them in jail,” sheriff’s Maj. Michael Merican said Friday, “and the judge can let them out.”
Public defenders working in St. Mary’s pursued the release of two inmates through civil filings, resulting in a pair of court hearings where opposition first came from the county’s lead prosecutor, and from the county attorney’s office during the second proceeding.
The petition filed by public defender Gina M. Fioravanti on behalf of Lamar Allen, jailed last October for violating his probation from a 2016 guilty plea to indecent exposure, was further pursued at a court hearing in June by public defender Edie F. Cimino, who argued that Allen’s reincarnation was subject to the new system of 10 days of credit
for each month served with no infractions.
“It’s definitely a new sentence,” Cimino said of the penalty for the probation violation.
Allen originally had been told that he would be released in early May, court papers state, but he later was told that his release date had been recalculated to the middle of June.
State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) countered that the penalty for violating probation “may be a sentencing event, but it’s not the imposition of a new sentence. Under our theory, he’s only entitled to five [days of credit] a month.”
Stamm later issued an opinion stating that Allen’s penalty for violating probation “merely executed a portion of the defendant’s already imposed sentence,” but that case law cited by the prosecutor referred to what was once a violent crime, unlike Allen’s indecent exposure offense.
The judge ruled that a 1992 legislative decision allowed the 10 days of credit.
A subsequent hearing in the case of another inmate, Cedric M. Long Jr., took place after his release from jail, but Assistant County Attorney James Tanavage noted that deeming a probation violation’s sentencing as a new case is “going to have statewide implications. Every inmate [would] have their sentence recalculated.”
The judge issued similar findings in Long’s case, noting that his second-degree assault conviction also is classified as a non-violent crime, and the judge denied on Aug. 31 a request that he revise his decisions.
Merican said Friday that St. Mary’s jail has been calculating release dates in the same manner as every other jurisdiction in Maryland. In light of the rulings for Allen and Gray, the major said, “we’re required to afford that to the rest of the [eligible] population.”
On Friday, he said, there were 202 inmates in the jail, either serving a sentence or in pretrial custody.