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The Truth About Bail Reform in Maryland

Posted on Bail Bond News April 10, 2019 by Peggy DiPirro

Bail reform in Baltimore

Maryland implemented the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (JRCC) on May 19, 2016 and joined with thirty-three other states within the USA who have chosen to revamp their criminal justice systems with bail reform and other initiatives to reduce prison and jail populations.  This new system involves removing cash bail and utilizing other release mechanisms for ‘non-violent’ pretrial inmates, such as supervised and own recognizance release (both largely relying on technical assistance for deciphering who stays and who goes).

Maryland’s new reform was primarily intended help to move inmates out of prisons in an effort to reduce their incarceration rate. Although the new program has been in operation for more than two years, the Justice Policy Institute indicated in October 2018 Policy Briefs that Maryland has not been collecting and reporting the appropriate statistics to provide any beneficial evidence that the reform has been effective.

An article released in March 2017 on Cato.org, ‘Maryland’s Bail Reform is a Warning for Would-Be Moralizers reported that from October 2016 through March 2017 that Maryland defendants held without bail had increased from ten to fourteen percent. And The Washington Post later reported that from September 2016 through May 2017 those amounts again increased from seven to fifteen percent and explains that though the policy formally took effect in July of 2017, the program had been in place since the previous fall. The Post article also mentions, “State data paints a conflicting picture, with some statistics suggesting a jump in people being detained but others showing the jail populations declining.”

While researching the crime data in Maryland between 2014 and 2016, my own findings were inconsistent. Therefore, at this point in time, the offered crime data (found within the state of Maryland and also from the FBI) has provided only uncertainty. Data for 2017 and 2018 are nowhere to be found.

 More Missed Court Dates

Immediately following the new bail reform policy in Maryland, more people who were arrested were released before trial on their own recognizance or an unsecured personal bond. In just eight months inside the new bail reform program, the percentage of defendants held without bond more than doubled.

Consequentially, in January 2017, nearly 1,600 of 11,028 defendants had failure to appears (the highest rate of any month in the data released since January 2016). The Baltimore County State’s Attorney stated, “Defendants who don’t post bail ‘don’t have any incentive to come to court other than it’s their duty to come to court. They don’t have skin in the game’.”

Maryland Governor Calls Press Conference Due to Crime Increase

On December 5, 2017, in response to more than one thousand shootings, 300 drug-trafficking organizations; ten thousand arrestees associated with gangs and more than five thousand crimes involving guns in 2017, Governor Hogan organized a press conference announcing a plan to fight violent crime in Baltimore.

Governor Hogan also stated within the same press conference that he believed the rise in violent crime in Baltimore was due to soft enforcement of laws by city judges at the same time gang activity and drug trafficking was on the rise. “People are getting slapped on the wrist in Baltimore City.”

“Gang activity is up. Heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil are out of control….It’s been a very difficult situation for the mayor and a very difficult situation for the police commissioner.”

Top law enforcement officials throughout the state (but not from Baltimore) also argued that courts have grown too soft on violent crime and need to get tougher.

The governor announced a package of initiatives aimed at curbing violent crime in Baltimore – ordering increased state patrols in high crime areas and promising an ‘aggressive sweep’ arresting criminals wanted on outstanding warrants.

The new plan included ‘beefed-up patrols in the city by state police agencies, including the state police and transportation agencies, as well as increased monitoring of people on parole and probation’.

House of Delegates Criticize New Crime Bill

By March 2018, an article was published in The Baltimore Sun reporting that the House of Delegates were criticizing the new crime bill and were demanding immediate modifications to Maryland’s inmate release policies. Some were accusing the governor of passing the bill as an ‘election year ploy’ and concerns for the safety of the community were petitioned. For example, an increased homicide rate raised distressed comments, such as “We cannot afford to stand by while people are being shot and killed on our streets”.

Ignoring the Facts

On July 2, 2018, The Washington Post published, “Reforms Intended to End Excessive Cash Bail in Maryland Are Keeping More In Jail Longer, Report Says”. This article explains how one report analyzed pretrial jail populations in Prince George’s County before and after bail reform was implemented in 2017 and suggests that while cash bails have decreased, judges have opted to hold more people without bond instead of releasing them on their own recognizance.  Nonetheless, the reporter says nothing about the increase in crime and impact on its good citizens, but instead condemns the judicial system saying, “The increase in ‘no-bail’ holds violates the spirit of rules that the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted to address concerns over racial and financial inequities in the cash-bail-system.

It’s quite apparent that Maryland’s bail reform system is not working. However, an article was released by The Maryland Reporter ‘Justice Reinvestment Act Seems to Be Working, But Changes Proposed on Expunging Criminal Records’ on February 6, 2019 complimenting Maryland’s decline in the state’s prison and jail populations and more streamlined treatment for addicts who are charged with crimes. The writer misleads the reader to believe all-is-well, “the state’s prison population dropped 1.8% in fiscal year 2018, and the local detention population dropped 10%, according to the report.”

Maryland Resident Comments About Increased Crime on Quora

Citizens living in the state are testifying to live circumstances in Baltimore regarding what’s happening with crime. An example was found on Quora with an answer to the question on March 9, 2018, ‘Why is Baltimore Broke if Maryland is One of the Richest States?

She answered, “Maryland is the state, and it is divided into counties. The counties have a budget and the city has a budget. You can’t put a price on crime in Baltimore City is out of control….Baltimore is just broke period.”

Baltimore Police Consent Decree

The Bottom Line

Baltimore, Maryland’s bail reform program backfired and is creating an adverse effect. The system is releasing dangerous criminals.

 

RELATED: Why Supervised Release Alone for Pretrial is Not Enough

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