JPI applauds the February 7th ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals requiring judges and commissioners to consider a person’s ability to pay before money bail amounts are set. The proposed rule change was spurred by an opinion issued by Attorney General Brian Frosh that the Maryland judiciary must consider a person’s ability to pay before setting bail. AG Frosh proposed the rule after concluding that the current system is likely unconstitutional in that it results in people being held in jail simply because they are poor.

“Maryland’s pretrial system has prioritized money over safety by allowing high risk people who can afford their freedom to remain free before trial while low risk people – who usually can least afford to miss employment while sitting in jail—remain incarcerated before trial because they can’t afford to pay for their freedom. Data also shows that this is a civil rights issue, with people of color disproportionately held in jail due to an inability to post money bail,” said Keith Wallington, JPI’s State Based Strategist.

People who are not a public safety or flight risk should not be incarcerated simply because they can’t afford bail. Tying a person’s ability to pay to their freedom perverts the justice system and does not honor the spirit and intent of our pretrial system. This rule change should prevent courts from imposing an amount of money bail that a person can’t afford, ensuring that people won’t be locked up in Maryland simply because they are poor. “The action by the Maryland Court of Appeals is an important step in the right direction, and now the Legislature should move forward to finish the job of creating a system that is based on risk, not on resources,” said Marc Schindler, JPI’s Executive Director.  

For more information on the money bail system and the need for reform in Maryland, please contact JPI Executive Director Marc Schindler at (202.215.7070) or JPI Digital Media Associate Olivia Martinez