Candidates for the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Sentences: In what cases, if any, would you support legislation requiring judges to impose mandatory sentences? Do you feel Maryland should build a maximum security facility for juvenile offenders? Please explain.
Spending: In which areas of government should the state spend more money or less? Please be specific.
Legislation: Give three examples of legislation you intend to propose.
Dennis C. Donaldson (D), incumbent, 44, of 5817 Marlboro Pike, District Heights, has been a delegate since 1979; he served two years on the Judiciary Committee and is now on the Appropriations Committee. A retired D.C. police sergeant, he has been a recreation director and a high school coach, and has been active in youth, fraternal and professional groups.
Sentences: (a) I support legislation required judges to impose mandatory sentences in cases of repeat offenders of violent crime. I will once again, during the 1983 session, push for enactment of legislation to change Maryland's three-time loser law to impose mandatory life imprisonment, without parole, on conviction of a third violent crime. The present law provides for imposition of that sentence on the fourth conviction of a violent crime. (b) I am absolutely in favor of construction of a maximum security juvenile facility. Only a handful of juveniles commit the large majority of the serious crimes in Maryland. Many of these young offenders do not respond to rehabilitative measures. They have long histories of violent crime and violent behavior. When confined with other juveniles, they hamper their rehabilitation. They must be housed in a separate and secure facility.
Spending: The state must spend more money on job training, job retraining, economic development, prison constitution and providing staterwide full-scale programs of home and community care for the elderly to prevent their unnecessary institutionalization. In these times of rising inflation and austere budgets, it's difficult to pinpoint many areas where government should be spending significantly fewer funds. However, one area where we could spend less is in the area of capital improvements. I believe people's needs should take precedence over brick-and-mortar programs.
Legislation: 1) I am preparing legislation to provide for greater and more effective child support enforcement. The one-parent family is the fastest growing poverty group. Court orders of child support must be adhered to. When these orders are ignored by the supporting parent, the single-parent family often must resort to public assistance. Legal consequences for the supporting parent whose support payments are in arrears should be both swift and automatic. 2) I am preparing a bill to allow dispolaced workers, whose jobs are becoming obsolete because of industrial technological advancements, the right to go to school for job retraining without losing their unemployment benefits. These people are not your average students, but men and women who have families to support. Loss of their unemployment benefits prevents many of them from taking advantage of job retraining programs. 3) In addition, I will introduce legislation to tighten laws for mandatory sentencing of repeat offenders of violent crimes.
Joseph A. Finlayson Jr. (R), 40, of 10903 New Salem Avt., Upper Marlboro, is an attorney in general practice. He has been chairman of the Prince George's County Landlord-Tenant Commission and served on the board of the Condominium Task Force. He is active in legal groups and is a volunteer counselor for alchohol and drug abuse.
Sentences: A judge should be allowed to consider mitigating evidence in sentencing a first offender, the flexibility exercised dependant upon the nature of the crime, of course. I would favor this flexibility, for first-offender felons as well as first-offender misdemeanors. Reason: There may be many factors in the background of an individual, as well as factors in the commission of the crime, that may be mitigating. However, with rare exceptions, it is inexcusable for an individual to commit a second felony after being punished for the first offense. After such a second occurrence, a background investigation with any mitigating circumstances is not likely to offset the fact that the individual has committed a second felony. A minimum mandatory sentence, at least, would be appropriate. The state of Maryland has a very effective system of presently handling juvenile offenders with the various training camps scattered throughout the state utilized in handle juvenile with lesser delinquent problems, and the training center in Baltimore utilized for handling of those juveniles with serious delinquent problems. Since those juveniles that commit serious felonies are often treated as adults, and a section of the maximum security prisons in Maryland is allocated for this category of juvenile offenders, a maximum security facility for juvenile offenders is not warranted at this time.
Spending: The state is faced with a serious problem of increasing crime, and all of the after-effects that go with crime. For the safety and security of its citizens, the state must spend more money on the crime problem. Specifically, I am concerned with (a) the need for more law enforcement officers; (b) judicial system growth; (c) victim care, and (d) expansion of the department of correction facilities to adequately provide programs to rehabilitate incarcerated convicted offenders, as well as to protect those individuals who have been accused of crimes and incarcerated, but not tried for their offenses.
Legislation: 1) I intend to propose legislation to increase funds to deal with multi-facet problems that occur as a result of increasing criminal activity in the state. 2) I intend to propose legislation dealing with the effective utilization of the state's already enacted legislation with regard to awarding of state projects to minority contractors. 3) I intend to propose legislation to deal with improving the effectivenss of the state in educating the urban young in the public school system.
Lorraine M. Sheehan (D), incumbent, 45, of 42 Herrington Dr., Largo, a sales associate with a realty firm, has been a delegate for two terms. She chairs a health and aging subcommittee and serves on the Ways and Means Committee, the Humane Practices Commission and the Governor's Advisory Board on Rape and Sexual Offenses.
Sentences: Mandatory sentencing should be imposed upon a criminal found guilty of assaulting a public official, such as a police officer, judge or firefighter. Mandatory sentencing has been used successfully as a deterrent in other states. I support legislation requiring mandatory sentences when violence is perpetrated on an individual. There must be a psychological impact on offenders who know they will serve all of their sentence rather than part of it. The Juvenile Services Administration has not done an effective job of dealing with juvenile offenders, partly because of a shortage of funds.If first-time offenders are dealt with firmly and effectively, I believe there would be less of a need for a maximum security facility. I prefer to sentence serious and violent juvenile offenders to adult prisons. Juvenile offenders need to be taught respect for the law; to accept responsibility for their actions; to make restitution for the damage caused; and to redirect their energy into a positive and useful direction. Our limited funds should be spent on programs to accomplish these objectives. Building a maximum security facility for juveniles will not accomplish these goals.
Spending: There can be a gradual decrease in funding for state institutions, but only as community programming for the mentally retarded, disabled and elderly is provided. Institutions must function while new programming is developed for housing, jobs, recreation, health and attendant care. That is expensive, but once new programs are available, it is not only more humane, but also less costly. There are many duplicatory functions existing in Maryland's administration of social programs. The cost of administering these programs can be decreased by consolidation. An example would be consolidating rape crisis centers and battered spouse programs. This has already been successfully done in other jurisdictions.
Legislation: I will propose legislation to: 1) provide additional community polacements for mentally retarded adults; 2) increase funding for vocational and technical education so that high school graduates can develop marketable job skills, and 3) consolidate shelter programs to maximize the use of available funds and to decrease administrative costs.
Albert R. Wynn (D), 31, of 221 Harry S Truman Dr., Upper Marlboro, an attorney, is former executive director of the county's Consumer Protection Commission. He is active in voter registration and in the NAACP's legal assistance program, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southeast Maryland and the Coalition on Black Affairs.
Sentences: As an attorney I have observed that the repeat offender is the major perpetrator of crime in our communities, and I have gone on record in support of mandatory sentences in these cases. I also have supported mandatory sentences for handgun offenses (i.e., armed robbery). However, for every rule there is an exception, and it is essential that we have a safety-valve procedure whereby defendants could appeal, or judges could vacate a mandatory sentence within a few daya of sentencing, on the grounds of unusual circumstances (i.e., time between offenses). Most important, however, mandatory sentences must be a part of an overall reform of our criminal justice system. Such reforms should include improved prison and drug rehabilitation facilities, more judges to reduce backlogs, stronger juvenile services and increased occupational training in prisons. The recent horror stories of prison conditions make it evident that mandatory sentences would be counterproductive, unless we improve our entire system. I strongly believe that juvenile offenders should be separated according to the severity of their crimes and other problems.
Therefore, I favor juvenile maximum security facilities with liberal visitation policies. Before we construct new buildings, however, we should determine whether structural design changes, or consolidation of existing underutilized juvenile facilities, could accomplish the objective of separating hard-core juveniles from less dangerous youth.
Spending: I strongly believe that the state should increase its spending for education. Specifically, more funds should be allocated to the counties to meet the rising costs of quality education at the elementary and secondary levels. This funding should come both from existing revenue sources as well as from block grant monies. Until we get changes at the national level, the state of Maryland should spend more money to reduce the effects of unemployment. With the elimination of the CETA program, the state must provide a training job program as well as subsidies to private industry employers who hire unemployed target groups. Unemployment benefits may also have to be extended again. People are extremely concerned about our criminal system. Funding in the law enforcement area should be increased for juvenile services, occupational training in prisons, technical assistance to local police and anti-drug efforts.
Legislation: 1) I would like to initiate leislation to create a high-technology training program for young adults. Recent reports indicate that the familiar jobs of today will be obsolete in the future and that the trend is clearly toward high-technology occupations in communications, computers, transportation, etc. Maryland needs a program to bridge the gap between basic high school education and the job skills needed in the '80s. 2) I would like to introduce legislation to create an attractive package of tax credits and hiring subsidies for small businesses locating in and hiring from unemployment areas. It is vital that we maintain and stimulate the growth of viable small businesses as a source of employment opportunities. 3) I would also propose that the state provide an expanded loan guarantee fund for middle-income Maryland students attending state colleges and universities. This program would be designed to meet the needs of those students who are currently ineligible for federal financial aid as a result of Reagan's cuts in education funding.