This week, the Daily Record published an op-ed from Major Michael R. Merican, assistant sheriff of St. Mary’s County, on the benefits of comprehensive pretrial services programs. Major Merican cites “Steps in the Right Direction: Maryland Counties Leading the Way in Pretrial Services,” the report OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program recently published 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.
Merican says that after developing and implementing a pretrial release program, the results, which can be found in the report, were “dramatic,” with 99 percent of participants appearing for all court appearances, 70 percent serving no time and 91 percent serving less than a year. The new program also drastically reduced overcrowding and ultimately saved St. Mary’s County nearly $400,000.
Merican went on to say that OSI’s report, as well as one published by the NAACP, and another report by the Office of the Public Defender, which was also supported by OSI “have confirmed that the statewide judicial rule change implemented last July has successfully reduced the number of people held before trial without an increased threat to public safety.”
Members of the OSI-Baltimore-funded Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland. The Coalition, which includes Open Society Policy Center, a non-partisan and non-profit advocacy group that is part of Open Society Foundations, has pushed for reforming the state’s bail system since its inception. Tara Huffman, director of OSI-Baltimore’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program, organized the effort.