Statement of Principles

 “In our society, liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.”
Justice William Rehnquist, United States v. Salerno, 1987

“Across the country, nearly two thirds of all inmates who crowd our county jails…are defendants awaiting trial…. Many of these individuals are nonviolent, non-felony offenders, charged with crimes ranging from petty theft to public drug use. And a disproportionate number of them are poor. They are forced to remain in custody – for an average of two weeks, and at a considerable expense to taxpayers – because they simply cannot afford to post the bail required…. Almost all of these individuals could be released and supervised in their communities – and allowed to pursue or maintain employment, and participate in educational opportunities and their normal family lives – without risk of endangering their fellow citizens or fleeing from justice. ”
— U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, June 1, 2011


Because of its continued reliance on commercial bond, which includes cash bail, property, and other forms of collateral, Maryland’s current pretrial system provides a clear advantage to people who have easy access to monetary resources and a distinct disadvantage to those who do not. Marylanders of low-risk and limited means languish in jail even as wealthier individuals who present a serious danger to public safety walk free. As a result, Maryland’s current pretrial system fails to protect public safety, wastes state and local resources, and discriminates against Black and Brown people who are disproportionately poor and economically disadvantaged due to our nation’s history of unequal opportunity and racism.

People who pose no threat to public safety yet are jailed because they cannot afford a commercial bond may experience the loss of wages, jobs, and housing, while other important life matters, such as child care or child support payments, are put on hold. This can lead to additional penalties and fees and a predictable cycle that can compound the myriad problems associated with inequality and lack of opportunity.

The Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland is committed to an alternative statewide system of pretrial justice that embodies the following principles:

  1. Reduces unnecessary arrests and detentions that disrupt and destabilize families and communities,
  1. Replaces discriminatory commercial bond with decision-making tools that are transparent, evidence-based, community-led, standardized, and free from racial, ethnic, and gender biases,
  1. Limits pretrial detention to the small number of people who either pose a threat to public safety or are a serious flight risk,
  1. Expands Maryland’s reliance on community-based supports that aid people in making their court appearances and remaining law-abiding while their case is pending, and
  1. Ensures community oversight of pretrial release decisions through ongoing data collection, evaluation, and transparency that is led by individuals and organizations that are the most representative of and accountable to those most directly impacted by discriminatory pretrial practices.