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Baltimore County courts launching pretrial pilot program

Baltimore County circuit and district courts will launch a pilot pretrial supervision program Monday.

Judges have been meeting with representatives from the Baltimore County Detention Center, state’s attorney’s office and the public defender’s office to monitor changes in the detention and pretrial supervision populations, as well as examine reforms in response to changes to Maryland’s pretrial release rule, which took effect July 1. A county work group subsequently made a risk assessment tool to use for bail review hearings.

Through the new pilot program, circuit and district court judges will have access to defendants’ risk assessment scores at each initial bail hearing. Defendants recommended for release with supervision will have options, including periodic phone check-ins, periodic in-person check-ins, drug testing and referrals with monitoring for services, such as drug or mental health counseling, or home detention with monitoring, according to the Maryland Judiciary.

“It is our belief that this pilot will help us maintain public safety while decreasing the number of people who are in jail before trial,” Baltimore County Circuit Administrative Judge Kathleen Gallogly Cox said in statement. “If someone is really dangerous, it makes sense to hold them in jail without bail. On the other hand, if they do not present a threat to public safety and are likely to show up for trial, ordering them released on their own recognizance may be the right decision.”

The county work group will monitor data from the pilot program over the next several months to determine its effectiveness of the instrument and pretrial supervision programs.

“We have worked closely with our justice partners to create this pilot,” said Baltimore County District Administrative Judge Dorothy Jean Wilson in a statement. “We think this approach can help us determine who poses a risk to our community’s safety and determine the appropriate conditions of release for defendants while their cases are pending.”

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