Origin and Purpose

About the MSCCSP

The Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy (MSCCSP) oversees the state's voluntary sentencing guidelines for criminal cases prosecuted in circuit court. Using data collected from the Maryland sentencing guidelines worksheets, the MSCCSP monitors circuit court sentencing practice and adopts changes to the guidelines consistent with legislative intent when necessary. During the legislative session, the MSCCSP prepares statements containing fiscal and statistical information on proposed legislation affecting sentencing and corrections practice. A correctional population simulation model, currently in the final stage of development, is expected to assist in this effort. The model is designed to estimate the impact of changes in operating policies, sentencing practices, post-release practices, and external system pressures on the system.

Core Functions

The responsibilities of the MSCCSP include the following core functions:

  • Reviewing judicial compliance with the sentencing guidelines;
  • Revising the sentencing guidelines in response to new and amended crime legislation;
  • Updating the Sentencing Guidelines Manual to incorporate adopted modifications to the guidelines;
  • Reviewing the sentencing guidelines for consistency;
  • Collecting, automating, cleaning, and storing guidelines data compiled via sentencing guidelines worksheets;
  • Providing sentencing guidelines training to promote the consistent application of the guidelines and accurate completion of the guidelines worksheet;
  • Responding to questions from practitioners and others regarding the guidelines;
  • Providing legislators with fiscal estimate worksheets for proposed legislation affecting sentencing and corrections practice;
  • Responding to requests for guidelines data and sentencing information; and
  • Completing topical reports on sentencing trends across the state.

History

In the spring of 1996, the Maryland General Assembly created the Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy and charged it with the important task of evaluating the state's sentencing and correctional laws and policies. Chapter 563 of the Laws of Maryland 1996 directed the Commission to make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly regarding key aspects of sanctioning policy in a report to be submitted on or before September 30, 1997. The Commission held its initial meeting in July of 1996. Specific directives to the Commission were the following:

  • Recommend whether descriptive sentencing guidelines should be retained by the state as a sentencing structure, either in their current form or in a modified form;
  • Recommend whether the state should adopt guided discretion sentencing guidelines and, if so, what type of guided discretion sentencing guidelines should be adopted;
  • Recommend whether the state should retain parole as a correctional option or eliminate parole for all inmates or any particular category of inmates;
  • Recommend whether the state should increase the minimum portion of a sentence that must be served by all inmates or any particular category of inmates;
  • Recommend whether the state should eliminate good time credits or otherwise alter the manner in which an inmate may obtain release on mandatory supervision;
  • Recommend whether the state needs to take action to ensure that there is a coordinated system of correctional option programs at the state and county levels and, if so, what action should be taken; and
  • Recommend whether modifications to other matters relating to state and local laws and policies governing sentencing, parole, mandatory supervision, and correctional options programs should be taken, and, if so, what action should be taken.


In May 1999, the Maryland General Assembly created the State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy (MSCCSP) under Chapter 648 of the Laws of Maryland 1999. In July 1999, the MSCCSP formally replaced its predecessor advisory commission. The enabling legislation for the MSCCSP (Criminal Procedure Article, §§6-201 - 6-214, Annotated Code of Maryland) set out six legislative goals for sentencing in Maryland, stating that:

  • Sentencing should be fair and proportional, and sentencing policies should reduce unwarranted disparity, including any racial disparity, in sentences for offenders who have committed similar offenses and have similar criminal histories;
  • Sentencing policies should aid citizen understanding of the time that an offender will actually be incarcerated, if any;
  • Sentencing guidelines are voluntary, and it is voluntary for the courts to sentence within the guidelines;
  • Prison capacity and prison usage should give priority to the incarceration of violent and career offenders;
  • Sentencing policies should preserve meaningful judicial discretion in the imposition of sentences and sufficient flexibility to permit individualized sentences; and
  • Sentencing judges in every jurisdiction in the state should be able to impose the most appropriate criminal penalties, including corrections options programs for appropriate offenders.