At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee in Annapolis Tuesday, judges and public defenders testified that a Court of Appeals ruling that went into effect in July has been successful at reducing the number of people held in jail because they can’t afford to pay bail.
The Daily Record noted that Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, once a vehement opponent of the rule change, testified that he had been proven wrong:
Shellenberger said he did not expect to be commending the Maryland Judiciary’s rule when it went into effect July 1, believing then that their concern about wrongly jailing the indigent would spur district court commissioners and judges to erroneously release defendants who pose a public-safety threat or a risk of not showing up for trial. Shellenberger, who was representing the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, said he was wrong to think the sky was going to fall because of the rule.
“The sky has not fallen,” he told the House Judiciary Committee.
Maryland District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey told the Judiciary Committee that increased availability of pretrial services would increase the effectiveness of the rule change. “Judicial officers’ confidence in releasing defendants without bail is enhanced when pretrial services are available, such as drug rehabilitation and mental-health treatment,” he said.
Eleven of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions currently have pretrial service programs. A recent OSI-Baltimore report, Steps in the Right Direction: Maryland Counties Leading the Way on Pretrial Services, describes pretrial services programs in three Maryland jurisdictions that can serve as models to implement programs in other jurisdictions.