It’s never easy to admit you made a mistake. Twenty-five years ago, I made a serious mistake.
At the start of my two terms as governor of Maryland, I announced that I would not grant parole to anyone with a life sentence, even though they were supposed to have a chance to earn it. Governors after me followed suit. I know now that my statement in 1995 that “life means life” was completely wrong.
It meant that people whose sentences promised a chance at parole were denied it for decades, regardless of how thoroughly they worked to redeem themselves and make amends to those they harmed.
I think about the people who, back in 1993, had earned work release and were productively preparing to return to their communities. Every one of them, no matter the personal effort they put in to rehabilitating themselves, was sent back to prison. The change was supposed to be temporary. But because of my statements, it became permanent. They lost everything and had to start over, often ending marriages and forcing some to say permanent goodbyes to children.
It was wrong for them to be imprisoned for decades longer because of me and subsequent governors. Some are still locked up today.