Sun unfair to released prisoners

July 14, 2013

The Sun's article on the 13 people recently released from prison told a very one-sided story ("13 killers go free after court decision," July 11). I hope that, in the future, The Sun will remember that we are all human beings and not one-dimensional characters.

First, The Sun left out that the people were locked up after the juries deciding their fates were told that "innocent until proven guilty" was just a guideline. Their constitutional rights were violated, and they lost their freedom. That's a grave injustice.

Worse still, the article failed to mention that when people were sentenced, they were supposed to be eligible for parole after 15 years. Yet, because Maryland officials have taken a shamefully political approach to criminal justice policy, the system switched the basic rules of the game while these people were inside. Politics blocked their exit even after many of them showed they had turned their lives around. We've advocated for many of the men and women affected by this decision for more than 20 years.

Yes, they committed serious crimes and they deserved to be punished. But they also have served more time than anyone expected them to serve when they were sentenced. The people being released now are not the same people they were when they were sentenced decades ago, and anyone who has met them knows this.

But The Sun didn't talk to any of the people being released about the impact of the Maryland high court's decision. Among them are people sentenced as children nearly 50 years ago, people whose victims forgave them long ago and people who have long been recommended for release by the parole commission. They were kept inside only due to politics.

The Sun didn't write about these peoples' efforts to right the wrongs they committed decades ago, or their desires to contribute to their communities now.

I was exonerated after serving nearly four decades of my life in Maryland prisons. Instead of vilifying the people responsible for taking away my freedom, I chose to advocate for sensible criminal justice reform that serves all of us — victims and communities — alike. We need a system that restores our faith in each other, not a system that tears us apart and dehumanizes us.

Walter Lomax, Baltimore

The writer is project director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative.

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