PM backs bill that would phase out cash bail as discriminating against low-income, poor

Progressive Maryland is backing HB1390 /SB880, a bill to phase out cash bail for many criminal charges because "We absolutely must not have different levels of justice for the poor and the rich." Those incarcerated because they can't raise cash bail lose jobs and the ability to support their families. PM backed the Senate bill last week and does the same for the House bill today, with the testimony below.

 Testimony in Support of Maryland Senate Bill 880:

Criminal Procedure – Pretrial Release - Reform

FROM:           Jennifer Dwyer, Progressive Maryland

DATE:            March 1, 2017

POSITION:   Support

 Thank you for the opportunity to testify on SB 880. Progressive Maryland is a grassroots, nonprofit organization of more than 100,000 members and supporters who live in nearly every legislative district in the state. In addition, there are 18 affiliated religious, community and labor organizations that stand behind our work. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families in Maryland. Please note our strong support for this bill.

SB 880 addresses a massive injustice in our criminal justice system-- the incarceration of individuals who have not yet been tried simply because they cannot afford the cash bail required to be free until the date of their hearing. Marylanders of low-risk and limited means languish in jail even as wealthier individuals who present a serious danger to public safety walk free.

 This means that individuals who would ultimately be found “not guilty” by a court could be held in jail for days, weeks, or months awaiting trial simply because they’re too poor to afford cash bail— and in the meantime lose their jobs and homes and be unable to care for their families. We absolutely must not have different levels of justice for the poor and the rich.

 SB 880 ensures that any pretrial release conditions must be the least onerous conditions to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court and safety of victims and the community. It also requires that by 2021 all jurisdictions establish community-based pretrial services and use fair, just, and transparent processes to determine release.

 Maryland residents deserve better than to be incarcerated for no other reason than poverty. We urge a favorable report for SB 880.