Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

2018 Pretrial Summit Explores Alternatives to Pretrial Incarceration in Maryland

By Thomas Wenz, Public Information Officer

Nadine Maeser, Asst. Public Information Officer

ANNAPOLIS – Every day, judges determine whether defendants, after being charged with criminal offenses, will be in the community or in detention pending their court date. Pretrial supervision services are an alternative for defendants who do not need to be detained, but would not be eligible for release without conditions.

To build consensus to create or enhance those services, the Maryland Judiciary, with support from the National Center for State Courts, State Justice Institute, and Pretrial Justice Institute, hosted a statewide summit on Monday, May 14, in Annapolis to open a dialogue with stakeholders and justice partners.

Pretrial supervision services in Maryland do not exist in every jurisdiction. For those jurisdictions that do provide services, they vary in level of funding and complexity. Some are as rudimentary as telephone calls to defendants reminding them of court dates while others include varying levels of supervision based on the use of risk and needs assessment tools.

“Like other states, Maryland has struggled for decades to address the need for better approaches to managing defendants pretrial,” said Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, Court of Appeals. “In Maryland, as across our nation, a consensus is emerging about a better way forward to assure defendants appear in court and to maintain public safety without unfairly penalizing those who are poor.”

Nearly 200 people attended the 2018 Pretrial Summit, including judges, wardens, sheriffs, public defenders, state’s attorneys, and other key officials. Participants assembled into 24 teams to represent each jurisdiction, and identified ways to develop and run pretrial services.

“With teams from every county in Maryland and Baltimore City attending the 2018 Pretrial Summit, the key stakeholders were at the table to develop pretrial services and risk assessment tools, to build rigor in existing programs, and to consider new practices that have been shown to be effective and fair,” said Chief Judge Barbera.

“This event was the first of its kind in the state,” said Pamela Harris, State Court Administrator. “We had 24 jurisdictions under one roof, which led to innovative and engaging conversations.”

Years of study in Maryland and numerous task forces and study groups have recommended various initiatives to reform and enhance pretrial services.  Criminal justice reform, including pretrial reform, has been a major focus in Maryland over the past two years because of the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) and revisions to Maryland Rule 4-216.1 (pretrial release) in 2017.

Experts from across the country were invited to speak at the 2018 Pretrial Summit on a wide variety of topics such as identifying effective pretrial systems, best practices for communication and messaging, risk assessments and pretrial release decisions, supervision and monitoring, substance abuse and mental health issues, and funding and resources. Attorney General Brian Frosh and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, longtime pretrial justice advocates, also addressed the attendees.

“The speakers and workshops paved the way for constructive and effective discussions and action planning,” said Chief Judge John P. Morrissey, District Court of Maryland. “Our hope is that this was just the beginning of this discussion and the teams will continue to work together to develop these programs for Marylanders.”

At the conclusion of the event, teams summarized their action plans, including strategies in building pretrial services in their jurisdiction.

“The Judiciary looks forward to continuing its collaboration with criminal justice partners to improve the management of pretrial populations, helping to assure that Maryland’s pretrial management practices are fair and just,” Chief Judge Barbera said.

Effective July, 1, 2018, $1 million in grant funding will be available through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control to start or enhance pretrial services.

 

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