Law/Justice

They were sentenced to life in prison. Who should decide if they get a second chance?

By Rebecca Tan and Ovetta Wiggins Washington Post

Nineteen years after Darryl Taylor was sentenced to life for a murder he says he did not commit, a board of parole commissioners recommended him for early release. The feeling, he remembers, was like standing with one foot out the prison gates, close enough to Baltimore to see his childhood home, his wife and his five living children.

But Taylor never made it out. In 2020, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) rejected his release, overturning the decision of the 11-member parole board. No reasons were given.

“That was a crushing feeling,” Taylor, 50, said last fall from a medium-security prison in Jessup, Md. “You feel like you’re on the verge of having some sort of freedom, and they hand you a piece of paper that just says, ‘no.’ ”

Darryl Taylor seen at the Jesssup Correctional Institution in Maryland, where he has been behind bars since 2000 for a murder he says he did not commit. He was recommended for parole in 2019 but rejected by the governor. (Jene Traore)

For decades, politics has shaped the parole process for those serving life sentences in Maryland. In the heat of a tough-on-crime campaign in the 1990s, a governor declared that he would reject all “lifers” for parole even after parole commissioners had recommended their release. The policy, maintained by governors from both parties, left hundreds of prisoners with parole-eligible sentences — the vast majority of them Black men — to grow old and die in prison.

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