Governor Considers Executive Order for Risk Assessment Tool Pilot Program

There may still be hope for a pretrial risk assessment tool in Maryland’s future. Governor Martin O’Malley is considering issuing an executive order creating a pilot program to test a statistical risk assessment tool for pretrial assessments. As reported in The Daily Record:

Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he may issue an executive order creating a pilot program for reforms to criminal bail procedures.

It would be the next chapter in Maryland’s efforts to comply with a Court of Appeals ruling that defendants have a right to legal counsel at every bail hearing. Legislators failed to agree on a solution this past session.

The order would create a pilot program that uses data on each defendant, such as criminal history, to assess the person’s risk of committing more crimes if released from jail.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, a bill (SB 973/HB 1232) revamping the bail reform system through a new pretrial service division and statistical analysis tool failed when the House and Senate could not agree on a compromised proposal to address the issue raised by the Richmond v. DeWolfe cases. Instead $10 million was added to State budgeted funds for panel attorneys to provide indigent representation at bail review hearings. One of the key areas of disagreement with the risk assessment tool proposal was the bill’s complete reliance on a computer running the tool without a court official making the final call. As noted in The Daily Record:

Anne Milgram, a former New Jersey attorney general now working with the Arnold Foundation, said criminal justice is far behind industries like health care and education in reliance on data.

“There is no area in America I can think of where it’s more important to do it,” Milgram said.

Milgram said computers aren’t necessary to run the Arnold tool — it can usually be done on paper within 30 seconds. So the process doesn’t need to shut down when technology malfunctions.

As for prior arrests, Milgram said some risk assessment tools do account for them, but the Arnold Foundation’s does not.

However, naysayers in Maryland are right concerning a key point: In Maryland, policymakers have discussed keeping human discretion out of the bail process, while in other states a court official makes the final decision.

Milgram said every jurisdiction using the Arnold tool still has a judge or court employee making the final decision about each defendant. The risk score is just a guide.

For more information read the full article in The Daily Record.