Maryland incarcerates more than 20,000 people, 58 percent of them are nonviolent offenders, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion a year, according to the state's newly formed Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council.
This week, the council finalized recommendations that could reduce Maryland's prison population by roughly 4,000 people over the next decade, which the council believes could save taxpayers about $250 million. The savings could then be used to put more drug use offenders into drug-treatment programs.
"We would see lower recidivism rates," said Mike Gimbel, a drug addiction specialist who used to be Baltimore County's drug czar.
Gimbel said he gave the council ideas on how closed-down mental hospitals across the state could be turned into long-term drug treatment centers.
"Plus, it’s a third of the cost of what we pay to incarcerate them, so we get better results at a cheaper price, and we get a better human being," Gimbel said.