Due to Friends & others, impossibly high bail declared unconstitutional in Maryland

Progress in Baltimore’s court system: the continuing story from LEYM’s 2016 plenary talk at Annual Sessions where we heard stories of discriminatory court practices in Baltimore.

The Sept. 2017 issue of Friends Journal notes that “At the request of a Quaker in the Public Defender’s office” (presumably Natalie Finegar, Deputy District Public Defender for Baltimore and LEYM’s plenary presenter at 2016 Annual Sessions), Quakers from several meetings in the area began attending money bail hearings. Friends who attended bail hearing “found that most low-level bail hearings proceed without any observers except those directly involved, and that defendants with similar history and charges get vastly different bail decisions depending on the judge that reviews their case.”

“Defendants who can make bail are released, but those with few resources must stay in jail until their trial, often three weeks or more. During that wait, the detained might lose a job or psosibly a home…. Since Friends began their court watch, Maryland’s highest court determined that imposing impossible-to-pay money bail for poor defendants is unconstitutional… A large coalition of churches and community groups, spearheaded by Annapolis Meeting, began to work on legislation for the elimination for money bail.”

Friends in the Baltimore, Maryland, area “are continuing their weekly court watch witness after the implementation of new standards for assigning bail.”