A track to empower Maryland judges to use alternative sentencing for addicted offenders is essentially broken, reports the Baltimore Sun. Judges have told state legislators that their authority to sentence seriously addicted lawbreakers to long-term treatment has been ified by waiting lists that run to 18 months, so long that many defendants’ jail terms have ended by the time a slot opens up. In Baltimore County, a public defender argued last week that the state was violating the law by failing to find an inpatient slot for a defendant who was sitting in jail after being sentenced to treatment three months ago.
The shortage of treatment slots is particularly affecting judges’ ability to sentence people with serious addictions to long-term, residential treatment rather than prison or jail. “Judges are desperate for accessible, suitable treatment for defendants,” Baltimore Judge Charlotte Cooksey said, adding that ordering the state to provide treatment “is an exercise in futility.” Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. speaks strongly in favor of treatment, a stance the Republican acknowledges is not shared by many in his own party. At $70 a day, residential treatment is more expensive than outpatient care.