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Maryland Senate approves a controversial bail setting bill

Clay County Jail Prison Bars
Clay County Jail Prison Bars
Clay County Jail

On Monday the Maryland Senate approved a bill that would use a formula to determine if a person should be jailed or released. A computer would use the formula that could take into consideration such information such as a person’s criminal history and alleviate the duty of District Court commissioners to make that decision.

One of the issues surrounding providing a public defender is the excessive time and cost. A public defender is needed 7 days a week around the clock and under Maryland's current system a defendant is allowed multiple bail hearings. This could cost the courts as much as $55 million.

A debate on this subject surfaced after the courts found out that too many people were being jailed pending trial. There are critics from both the democrats and republicans who believe that this is either the best solution or a dangerous bill. State Senator Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), stated “This is one of the most dangerous bills I’ve seen down here,” while Sen. Christopher Shank (R-Washington) states that this “the best solution forward.”

Zirkin has offered an alternative to the General Assembly such as passing a constitutional amendment that would undo the high court’s ruling. Many believe that the bill will face much resistance in the House of Delegates and over the next several weeks it will be interesting to hear the views of the many critics and supporters.