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Op-ed: Maryland’s pretrial bail system still needs reform

July 21, 2020

Back in 2017, the Public Justice Center and fellow members of the Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland successfully defended in the Maryland General Assembly a new rule from the Court of Appeals of Maryland that directed judges to consider defendants’ financial situation and prioritize non-monetary means of ensuring that they attend trial. The rule was intended to ensure that a person’s income level does not determine whether they stay in jail before trial or is released.

Nevertheless, judges’ varied applications of the rule have continued the racial and economic disparities in our pretrial bail system. In this op-ed, advocates Iman Freedman (Baltimore Action Legal Team), Nicole Hanson (Out For Justice, Inc.), and Caryn York (Job Opportunities Task Force) describe how Maryland has failed to live up to the promise of these bail reforms, with nearly the same number of people held in jail pretrial today as were before the reforms, just with a different justification. In the midst of a pandemic, this failure compounds the health and financial risks people face pretrial, especially African Americans and people with low incomes. The op-ed recommends five actions the Maryland judiciary and legislature should take to fix the state’s still broken pretrial system. Read the op-ed here.