Hell on Earth
In Maryland, being arrested in Baltimore comes with uglier consequences than one might expect. You see, if you happen to be unfortunate enough to go to jail in Baltimore, you’ll sit in a stark cell, where those accused of murder will sit beside those who had a few too many beers at a Birds’ game. One defense attorney, in fact, refers to Baltimore’s Central Booking as “hell on earth.” Heady stuff, and perhaps it would be inspiring to Dante himself.
What could be worse than that? Well, how about a new law that was, apparently, designed to hold fewer people awaiting trial that is now, actually, resulting in MORE defendants being held without bail. Whoops…
Not According to Plan
Maryland’s new laws, intended to result in fewer held in jails, has had a perverse effect. Referred to as “bail reform” (hopefully? naively? Hard to say), the measure is resulting in judges ordering more people to stay in jail without the chance of bail as they away their trials.
Better Safe Than Sorry
The result is the number of people sitting in jail is just about the same. According to a recent article:
Baltimore data show just 2 percent fewer people were held at their initial appearance in court in July 2018 than were were being held in January 2017, one month before the state adopted reform — from 51.5 percent at the start of 2017 to 49.5 percent last July.
Throughout the rest of the state, numbers match up pretty well with that trend. Turns out that judges are taking a conservative, “better safe than sorry” approach to holding alleged criminals. For Marylanders concerned with safety, that’s probably a good move, but where is all this going?
Much Ado About Nothing
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh notes:
If someone is a threat or won’t show up to court, they won’t set high bail, they’ll just lock them up. Courts will say, ‘You failed to show up three times. We’re not letting you go this time.’
And that makes sense. Fool me once…shame on you. Fool me four times…well, then I’m an idiot. But really, what’s the point of all this? Bail bondsmen are being driven out of business, jails are just as crowded, and defendants have no more opportunity to continue with their normal lives than before.
Perhaps the point is to create more work for the lawmakers and bureaucrats who require further justification for their existence. On the surface, it certainly “seemed” like something was being done. People were “taking action” and “getting things done.” Turns out that the entire charade was the law-making equivalent of digging holes and filling them in again.