Maryland’s parole process for people serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole, like Eraina Pretty, is long and arduous.
In 2008, parole commissioners first recommended her for parole after she completed a required risk assessment and psychological evaluation. She waited three years for the governor’s decision; in 2011, then-Governor Martin O’Malley denied her parole. In 2015, the commission once again recommended her for parole; this time, she waited four years before receiving a denial from Governor Larry Hogan.
In February, legislators introduced House Bill 1219, which would have precluded the governor from making parole decisions for those serving life sentences.
The bill had been introduced during the past 10 legislative sessions. This year, it passed with a veto-proof majority in the House and, according to Lila Meadows, an attorney at the University of Maryland Law School’s Gender Violence Clinic, would have had enough votes to pass in the Senate. Then COVID-19 prematurely stopped the legislative session.
“If a sentence with parole is meaningful in any way, it has to be that when you have held up your end of the bargain and did all the things the system has asked you to do … you get returned to society. If that doesn’t happen, parole sentences are completely meaningless.”