Pretrial Program in St. Mary’s Lauded for Accomplishments

An article in The Baltimore Sun highlights St. Mary’s County’s pretrial supervision program and the success of the two-year-old program in reducing incarceration and improving recidivism rates:

Fowler is one of roughly 45 defendants now receiving services and supervision through St. Mary’s County’s pretrial supervision program, which is winning accolades for its results in getting criminal defendants to show up for trial and avoid new offenses without relying on bail or incarceration.

The program has been held up by law enforcement leaders and lawmakers across Maryland as a potential model as they move to comply with new court rules requiring them to reduce the role of cash bail in deciding which defendants to free.

Maj. Michael Merican, an assistant sheriff in St. Mary’s, launched the program in 2015, when he was warden at the county detention center. He said it’s been good for public safety and county finances.

“It’s a cost savings to the public,” he said. “The state can’t afford to build bigger prisons and bigger jails.”

St. Mary’s, Maryland’s southernmost county, is a half-rural, half-exurban jurisdiction of 113,000, home to watermen, service members and civilians at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, veterans and a significant corps of long-distance commuters to Washington.

What sets the county’s pretrial program apart, reform advocates say, are its smart use of existing resources and the comprehensiveness of its supervisory services. They say its modest scale and budget make it an attractive model for other jurisdictions.

But keeping people locked up costs taxpayers money. The county puts the cost of jailing a prisoner at $149 per day, while supervising a released defendant is roughly $29. If the county weren’t supervising those 45 people on the outside, officials say, it would have to staff an additional wing of the jail.

Still, Merican isn’t handing out free passes.

“It’s very important to keep the right people in jail,” he said.

The article notes that St. Mary’s is one of several counties in Maryland that have pretrial supervision programs. Pretrial programs were in the spotlight this past general assembly session as bills were introduced to codified the Court of Appeals rule change regarding the use of bail and to require all counties in Maryland to have pretrial supervision programs. Countering bills were also introduced in support of the cash bail system.

To learn more read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Safety & Corrections

Maryland Black Caucus Opposes Bail Bill

Senate Debates Bail Bill, House Wait-and-See

Court of Appeals Unanimously Approves Changes to Bail Rule