When someone mentions a drunk driver in Montgomery County people are quick to condemn the action. While the topic of driving under the influence of alcohol is bound to raise some very strong opinions and emotions, few people look at a conviction for drunk driving as an indicator of a problem with alcohol.
At one point in our nation's history, legislators turned to studies that showed longer, harsher prison sentences would cause a drop in the crime rates. While prison sentences have, in some instances, reduced the amount of criminal activity, the PEW Center on the States says that they have only accounted for, at most, a one-third reduction. With the overall crime rate dropping, it appears that the need for longer prison sentences is ending.
For Marylanders accused of sexual assault, rape or statutory rape, there is a huge fear that they will be sent to prison for the rest of their lives. There are, however, alternative programs that are sometimes available for those convicted of a sex crime, including civil commitment. Although Maryland doesn't have a civil commitment system, the example of other states may call into question whether such a program would actually benefit the men and women convicted of sex crimes.
For people convicted of non-violent crimes in Maryland it often makes more sense to provide an alternative to prison. Luckily, alternative sentencing strategies are gaining widespread support throughout the nation, resulting in the first drop in the American prison population since the early 1970s. These programs can benefit those accused of relatively minor crimes, such as shoplifting or drug use.