A tragic reminder of Maryland's broken parole system

Maryland State Trooper Wesley Brown, 24, was killed June 10 at an Applebee's restaurant in Forestville.
Maryland State Trooper Wesley Brown, 24, was killed June 10 at an Applebee's restaurant in Forestville. (Maryland State Police Via Associated Press)
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By Hal Riedl
Sunday, June 20, 2010

The arrest of Cyril Cornelius Williams in the death of State Trooper Wesley Brown calls for an urgent investigation into the practices of the Maryland Parole Commission.

I spent 20 years as a case manager in the Maryland Division of Correction, most of it working directly with new offenders and parole violators, and I can attest that it has long been the policy of the Maryland Parole Commission to expedite parole, even for repeat, potentially violent offenders like Williams.

According to Maryland Judiciary Case Search, available online, Williams was sentenced to the Division of Correction on July 13, 2006, for possession with intent to distribute a "large amount" of drugs -- 50 grams of crack. He got five years, with another five years suspended, and three years probation upon release. On the same day, charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault and using a handgun in a violent crime, in a different case, were dropped.

That October, Williams was back in Prince George's County Circuit Court to receive another sentence of five years in still another case, for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The judge ran this second five years concurrently with the first five and started his time in this case on Aug. 17, 2006, so that the full sentence would not expire until Aug. 17, 2011.

The Post reported that Williams was paroled on July 23, 2008, having served 23 months of real time for his third major felony conviction.

How did that happen? By law, Williams was entitled to five days good-conduct time for every month to which he was sentenced. Thus, assuming that none of these credits were revoked for bad behavior, Williams was entitled to a minimum of 300 days off his five-year sentence. Allowance must be made for additional credits toward release that he would have earned during his 23 months. This figure has not been disclosed.

The bottom line is, if he had not been approved for parole and released after having served less than half his sentence, Williams might have still been a guest of the Division of Correction when Trooper Brown reported for his shift at Applebee's on June 10.

The fact that Maryland lacks enough prison space to house men who we know are good bets to reoffend is allowed to trump the risk of new crimes and new victims.

And despite tough talk from Gov. Martin O'Malley, this policy of accelerated parole has actually been ratcheted up on his watch. There are many Cyril Cornelius Williamses out there waiting to explode, and there are many more lining up to be released.

I implore the governor to order an immediate freeze on parole releases until an urgent investigation into the practices of the Parole Commission can be conducted.

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