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Prisoners’ Rights

Hands of prisoner in jail.

The Prisoners’ Rights Project seeks to end unjust and inhumane pretrial detention.

Whether a person stays in jail before trial or is released should not depend on how much money they have. When someone can’t afford to pay bail, they may sit in jail for weeks or months. In the meantime, they might lose their job, and their family loses a breadwinner. In order to get out sooner, they might take a plea deal, even if they’re not guilty.

The Public Justice Center’s work to address the devastating effects of bail bonds is an integral part of the coordinated effort of the Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland (CSJM). We pursue pretrial justice that will:


In addition to working on bail reform, the Public Justice Center has spurred changes in how people are treated while locked up pretrial.

Health care in pretrial detention in Baltimore

Our efforts forced an overhaul of the Baltimore City Detention Center’s health care system and major improvements to the facilities, including closure of the oldest facilities and new accommodations for people with disabilities. We are monitoring the jail’s progress in improving its health care system and facilities and continue to press aggressively to require system improvements to achieve a constitutional health care system as swiftly as possible.

Treatment of protesters in police custody

We represented members of the community organizing group Baltimore Bloc and others who were among 65 people unlawfully arrested and detained at a peaceful protest held during Artscape 2016. In a settlement in fall 2018, the Baltimore City Police Department agreed to significant policy reforms to respect rights to free speech and protest and treatment of people in police custody.