The Maryland Daily Record reports today that the use of cash bail in Maryland has declined since a new Court of Appeals rule, asking courts to prioritize non-monetary conditions for pretrial release, went into effect in July:
In the six months since Maryland’s retooled bail rule went into effect, nearly 60 percent of criminal defendants are being released on their own recognizance or with unsecured bond after appearing in front of a district court commissioner.
The OSI-funded Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland advocated for the rule change in 2016 and defended attempts to roll it back in the General Assembly is 2017.
“We are encouraged by the increase of releases and the decrease of money bail,” said Melissa Rothstein, director of policy and development at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, a Coalition member. “We are seeing more people being held without bail but we’re not seeing the increase in detention rates.”
The new data echoes a November report by the Maryland Judiciary, which found that “the Rule is succeeding in ensuring that lower level offenders are not detained solely because they cannot afford bail [and] that those that pose the most risk are being preventively detained.”
The Judiciary report also says that, “To complement the effects of the new Rule, enhanced pretrial services must be implemented in each county that does not yet have a pretrial services unit.”
In a press conference last week, the Coalition urged lawmakers to focus on investing in pretrial services throughout Maryland and released a new OSI-Baltimore report, Steps in the Right Direction: Maryland Counties Leading the Way on Pretrial Services, which details existing pretrial services programs in Montgomery and St. Mary’s counties and Baltimore City and describes how they increase public safety and reduce costs.