Governor Creates Commission to Study Pretrial Reform

In a move widely anticipated after the lack of structural “bail reform” in the 2014 legislative session, Governor Martin O’Malley has created the Governor’s Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System.

The purpose of the Commission is to bring together experts and interested parties to comprehensively examine the State’s pretrial system and to provide recommendations for reform. The Commission has a number of specific objectives, including:

  • Reviewing the use of pretrial risk assessment tools in other states and municipalities and providing a recommendation for a validated risk assessment tool to be used in Maryland
  • Assisting the state in running a pilot program for the risk assessment tool in one or more counties
  • Examining ways for the state to operate an efficient and equitable pretrial program

In addition to representatives from legislative, judicial and executive offices, membership on the Commission shall include representatives of local government, the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association (MCAA), and local law enforcement. MACo will continue to be engaged in the pretrial reform efforts and helping to ensure appropriate local representatives are appointed to the Commission.

The Commission comes in the wake of the DeWolfe v. Richmond decision which established the right of an indigent individual to have counsel at the initial steps of the bail review process and subsequent legislative efforts to comply with the ruling by revamping the pretrial system through the use of a risk assessment tool. As previously reported on Conduit Street, those efforts fell short as the House and Senate had differing philosophies on the use of a pretrial risk assessment tool to replace the current two-tiered commissioner system. It was agreed that a study and pilot program would be a solid step before committing to complete reform.

Work within the Commission is anticipated to move quickly as a final report on findings and recommendations is due no later than December 1, 2014.

For more information please read the executive order.