Senate Committee Acts First, Passes Strong Bail Reform Bill

Tonight the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed an amended form of SB 972, legislation to reform Maryland’s system of determining which arrestees are released and which are detained until a full judicial determination. The contentions discussion on the bill reflects the fractious debate on the issue in both chambers, and suggests the issue is far from fully resolved.

MACo has supported SB 973 with amendments, endorsing changes sought by local wardens, and raising principles regarding case management and expected local cost. The version of SB 973 that has passed the Judicial Proceedings Committee is by far the most responsive to local concerns of any proposal receiving attention.

While full amendments are not yet available (the bill is likely to be reported to the full Senate floor on Thursday morning), the essentials of the bill are:

  • creates a statewide Pretrial Services Commission, to develop and administer a risk assessment tool to serve as the principal early determinant for early release
  • requires the Governor to fund the services to be provided under the bill each year, and to offset costs of counties who opt to manage the programs locally rather than have the state-run program

Other issues had been raised during earlier work sessions between the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and MACo’s corrections affiliate the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association, and yielded more additions to the bill. The detail of these issues in the adopted amendments is not yet clear.

MACo will remain engaged on this issue, where House action is still pending (but widely expected to differ with this preliminary Senate action) and the debate on the Senate floor may be robust.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties