Justice Policy Institute Report Calls For Maryland Bail System Reform

An October 30 Maryland Reporter.com article discusses the findings of a September Justice Policy Institute report on bail reform.  The report examined the bail system in Baltimore City and argued that a money-driven bail system discriminates against low-income individuals.  The report calls for:  (1) use of evidence-based risk assessments rather than financial restrictions (i.e., bail); (2) release of more people on their own recognizance, with supervision and monitoring conditions; and (3) availability of legal counsel at their first bail hearing.

As previously reported by Conduit Street, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation and formed a task force to examine the use of public defenders at bail reviews by district court commissioners and bail hearings after the Maryland Court of Appeals held there was requirement to do so.  In order to comply with the bail review requirement, counties would have had to make significant personnel and infrastructure changes.  From the article:

The public defender statue originally required representation for  commissioner hearings, but that would have required the state to provide counsel  for the nearly 75,000 commissioner hearings every year. The public defender  office would have had to triple in size, said Jerome LaCorte, chief attorney in  the office of the public defender.

It is not new for public defenders to be present for bail reviews, but a  change in the policy now has more than just the office’s newest attorneys  dealing with bail matters.  Every attorney in the public defender’s office  will have to do bail reviews and reviews are now held six days a week from  Sunday to Friday.  …

[Maryland Senator and Judicial Proceedings Committee Vice-Chair Lisa Gladden] said that she supports creating a new bail system in Maryland and  would like to see it modeled after the D.C. bail system. However, this was  something she tried to do 10 years ago but couldn’t get a bill out of committee.  Gladden said that the problem lies in the fact there are too few criminal  lawyers in the General Assembly that understand the ramifications of the current  bail system.

“Which legislator is going to say, except us public defender legislators,  maybe we shouldn’t have bail, we should let people go?” she said. “Most people  are not going to be able to justify cutting people lose.”

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