Baltimore politicians rediscover the value of tough sentencing

It wasn’t so long ago that Baltimore politicians were pandering to the anti-law-and-order crowd with talk about “no justice, no peace” and “space to destroy.” Now that this kind of sentiment has helped produce a spike in homicides, earning Baltimore the title of America’s most dangerous city, the pols are singing a different tune. In fact, many are calling on the state legislature to enact tough anti-crime legislation.

Here’s Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City), chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland:

We know we have to do something. Our constituents want us to do something. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and we can’t keep slapping people on the wrists.

The spike in crime isn’t just affecting legislators’ constituents. One delegate says the brother of a relative was killed last year. The grandson of another delegate suffered the same fate.

Thus, we find Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh and a sizable number of delegates backing legislation that would raise the maximum sentence from 20 years to 40 years for a second-time offender who uses a firearm in connection with drug trafficking or to commit a violent crime. The legislation would also double the penalty for witness intimidation to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. In addition, it would would repeal a law that allows a defendant charged with or serving a sentence for a violent crime to be transferred from jail for drug treatment.

Civil rights advocates and defense lawyers are not amused. They tell the Washington Post that the legislation reminds them of the tougher penalties enacted by Congress in the 1980s as part of the war on drugs.

Out of control crime again leads to demands for tougher sentencing. What a coincidence!

The tougher sentencing regime adopted by Congress following the 1980s produced a significant decrease in serious crime. If Maryland follows a similar course, we might witness another coincidence.