- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2000

A Maryland Republican senator is asking the state's Democratic administration to end parole and mandatory release of violent and repeat offenders.

"No [lawmaker] wants to be seen as soft on crime, but if we don't pass a bill after this session, we could all be wearing that label," said state Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, a Republican who represents Frederick and Carroll counties.

Mr. Ferguson was referring to two recent killings that have raised concerns about parole and probation practices in the state:

• On Nov. 14, state officials released convicted violent sex offender Elmer Spencer Jr., 44, for "good behavior" after he served only 3* years of a 10- to 25-year sentence.

About six days after Spencer left prison in Hagerstown, police charged him with killing a 9-year-old boy whose bloody, unclothed body was found at a baseball field in south Frederick.

• On Nov. 21, Kofi Orleans-Lindsay, a drug offender who had violated probation in Maryland more than 70 times, was extradited from New York to face charges of killing a state trooper working undercover in the District.

Mr. Ferguson said he hopes lawmakers will enact

measures this year to ensure sexual predators or repeat offenders prone to violence are not released while they could be a threat to the community.

He said he has pegged his hope on conversations with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and other Democratic leaders, including state Sen. Walter M. Baker, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

In 1996, Mr. Ferguson won Senate approval for a measure that would have imposed a life sentence in prison without parole on anyone convicted of kidnapping a child under 16 and forcing the child into sex acts.

But the bill never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee which Mr. Ferguson and other senators have been quick to point out.

Judges generally oppose mandatory sentences one factor that makes it difficult for get-tough measures and other criminal justice reforms to clear committees that review them.

The House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman is trial lawyer and Prince George's County Democrat Joseph F. Vallario Jr., is often where such bills die.

Mr. Vallario did not return calls for comment about Mr. Ferguson's proposal or state Delegate's Sue Hecht's.

Mrs. Hecht, Frederick Democrat, announced Monday she would reintroduce a bill that would keep violent sex offenders from being sent into communities where they are likely to find new victims.

Staffers for Mrs. Townsend, who oversees public safety policy, said she had told Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Hecht she wants to work with them to keep such tragedies from recurring.

Mr. Ferguson, who is still working on details of his bill, and Mrs. Hecht said they would welcome a bill offered by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mrs. Townsend that produces the right result.

Mrs. Hecht has proposed that a panel review the issue and recommend reforms.

Townsend staffers said Stuart O. Simms, secretary for public safety and correctional services, made a similar suggestion, but many legislators aim to act before their session ends April 9.

Mr. Glendening's staff and legislators said the state may need to invest some of the estimated $350 million budget surplus this year in addressing the problem.

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