The Pretrial Court Observation Project was designed to educate community members about the pretrial process, while helping gather important data at the critical time of the recent implementation of a Maryland Court Rule change. This report documents the observations and findings of sixty-four volunteers who observed bail review hearings in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Frederick County, Howard County and Montgomery County. While their observations show clear progress, particularly with the decreased use of money bail, they also identified areas of concern, including the overuse of holding people without bail. The concerns that were identified have identifiable solutions. Among those were the need for a validated assessment tool and the availability of a sufficient range of pretrial services which are needed to ensure pretrial determinations are consistent, fair, and minimize the extent to which presumptively innocent individuals are jailed.
The recommendations in this report come from the Community Court Watch observers and are based on their assessments of what is needed to make pretrial a more fair process:
Recommendation 1: Provide judges with resources that encourage release while helping to ensure defendants return to court.Recommendation 2: Provide judges with tools that measure risk.Recommendation 3: Educate judges, commissioners and the community.Recommendation 4: Accused individuals should be present for their bail review hearing.