The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Pretrial Justice Clinic, or PTJC, has just published a report that summarizes its work during the 2016-17 academic year and presents its findings and recommendations so far.
Funded by the University of Baltimore and the Abell Foundation, the PTJC opened its doors in August 2016 with the general goal of promoting pretrial justice in Baltimore City through litigation, lobbying and education.
From the Executive Summary of the Pretrial Justice Clinic report:
- In partnership with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, the PTJC screened more than 75 cases and PTJC student-attorneys represented 21 low-income Marylanders in their efforts to secure pretrial release. PTJC students met with success in these efforts and most PTJC clients enjoyed favorable case outcomes.
- The PTJC worked with institutional stakeholders and the Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland to help secure an important pretrial rule change adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals that will go into effect on July 1, 2017. When the bail-bond industry attempted to undo the rule change during the legislative session, the PTJC assisted in ultimately successful coalition efforts to defeat regressive legislation.
- On the educational front, the PTJC held a well-received symposium, “Money Bail and Its Role in Mass Incarceration,” that brought together advocates and stakeholders for strategic discussion and launched #BailReformMD. In addition, the PTJC helped focus the attention of media on bail issues.
Based on its work and on an analysis of its internal data, the PTJC found that: (1) too many Marylanders are unnecessarily incarcerated before trial; (2) the presumption of innocence is undermined in the pretrial context; and (3) the new rule from the Court of Appeals is likely to help reduce the role of money bail in Maryland but may also exacerbate the problem of excessive preventive detention.
In light of these findings, the PTJC report recommends more careful review of evidence before holding defendants without bail, greater collaboration to facilitate review of bail determinations, training and education about the new procedural rule, and legislation to improve pretrial data collection.