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Hecht hopes to fix flaw in state's system of good-time credits

January 18, 2002

Hecht hopes to fix flaw in state's system of good-time credits



By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - A quirk in Maryland law allows prisoners who violate the terms of their early release to be rewarded with extra good-time credits.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, said Thursday she hopes to fix that problem with legislation this year.

"It's like you get benefits by re-offending. That's the part that just makes no sense," she said.

Hecht first delved into the issue of good-time credits last year after the death of 9-year-old Christopher Ausherman of Frederick, Md.

Elmer Spencer is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 5 in connection with the child's rape and murder that occurred just days after Spencer was released from prison.

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While inquiries showed that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services calculated Spencer's sentence correctly, it revealed just how complex the state's system of good-time credits has become.

Hecht asked the department for a report on the system, which was presented Thursday to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee.

The system has grown complicated because of law changes and court decisions, said Jack Kavanagh, deputy commissioner of the Division of Correction.

Take this case for example: An inmate is released after earning 1,000 credits for good behavior. Ninety days later, the inmate violates the conditions of his release and is sent back to prison.

The inmate is eligible for 90 days of so-called "street time" and now has 1,090 credits to his name.

"Our system is extremely complex and broken," Hecht said after listening to the report.

Hecht, who was waiting for the report before introducing legislation, said she hopes the legislature will correct the problem.

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