Pretrial Justice Clinic’s work featured in The Washington Post

The work of UB’s Pretrial Justice Clinic was featured in a Dec. 27, 2016, story in The Washington Post that discussed the experience of client Shannan Wise.

Wise, 27, who had no criminal history, spent five days in jail in 2015 after she couldn’t post $1,000 bond. The single mother of two was arrested after her younger sister, who has a mental illness, filed an assault charge against her.

If Wise’s friends and family hadn’t been able to finally scrape up the $1,000, she would have remained in jail until January 2016, when her first hearing was held. The charges were dismissed.

Zina Makar, co-director of the Pretrial Justice Clinic with Professor Colin Starger, told The Post that her client was not released sooner simply because she was poor.

A report last year by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender found that between 2011 and 2015 more than 46,000 defendants were held more than five days at the start of their criminal case – and that more than 17,000 of them were held on less than a $5,000 bail, The Post reported.

In an opinion last year, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said the current bail system could violate due process.

“We are putting people in jail because they are poor,” Frosh said.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is to hear testimony tomorrow (Jan. 5) from Frosh and others about revamping Maryland’s bail system. They face opposition from the police union, county prosecutors and the bail bond industry, which argue that only the General Assembly should handle changes to the current system.

Learn more about the Pretrial Justice Clinic.

Read the Washington Post story, “She spent five days in jail because she couldn’t come up with $1,000. Bail overhaul advocates say her story is not uncommon,” by Ovetta Wiggins.

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