In Criminal Justice Reform, O’Malley Has a Credibility Problem

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Martin O’Malley the presidential candidate is all about criminal justice reform. According to the Des Moines Register, he sees it as a “defining issue.” He better hope he’s wrong.

In an interview with the Register, O’Malley bemoaned America’s high incarceration rates. He said he wants to help prisoners prepare for their eventual return home. He said he wants to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing. He pointed to his tenure as mayor of Baltimore and then governor of Maryland as “on-the-ground experience” that qualifies him to address criminal justice reform as the president of the United States.

The problem is, as Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks pointed out, a look back at his criminal justice record roundly discredits this new, post-#BlackLivesMatter O’Malley, the one who is going to take on the establishment as the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Rodricks lists several examples of O’Malley’s frankly non-reformist criminal justice policies, but O’Malley’s lack of credibility in this area could be summed up in a single name: Mark Farley Grant.

At the age of 15, Mark Farley Grant was sentenced to life in prison for a murder that he had absolutely nothing to do with. In 2008, 24 years in on Grant’s sentence, O’Malley received a report from the University of Maryland School of Law which stated unequivocally, “Mark Grant did not kill Michael Gough. There is now no question about the fact.”

O’Malley let Grant sit in jail another four years. And when O’Malley finally commuted the sentence in 2012, it was only at the behest of the Maryland Parole Commission. No apology. No acknowledgement of Grant’s innocence. No compensation. All that accompanied the announce of the commutation was O’Malley’s reassurance that he was still “tough on crime.”

If O’Malley would have us believe that the plight of the incarcerated keeps him up at night, he ought to explain how he let an innocent man languish needlessly in prison for four years. (Then he ought to give Grant $1 million, as Rodricks once suggested.)