Md.’s cash bail sys­tem costs tax­pay­ers plenty

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Colin Starger, Bal­ti­more The writer is an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Bal­ti­more School of Law and direc­tor of the Pre­trial Jus­tice Clinic.

In his Nov. 9 op-ed, “Leave Md. bail sys­tem alone,” state Sen. Michael Hough pro­ceeds from the false premise that our cur­rent bail sys­tem “costs tax­pay­ers noth­ing.” In re­al­ity, the sys­tem costs poor tax­pay­ers a great deal. This is be­cause poor Mary­lan­ders or­di­nar­ily must pay pri­vate bonds­men a 10 per­cent non-re­fund­able fee in or­der to post bail.

Imag­ine a judge or­ders a $10,000 bail. This amount is be­yond the means of most poor folk, so a de­fen­dant’s only hope of pre­trial free­dom is to pay a bonds­man $1,000 to cover the full amount. The bonds­man pock­ets this $1,000 even if the de­fen­dant ap­pears for court or has his charges dis­missed. Such a sys­tem cyn­i­cally takes re­sources from the com­mu­ni­ties that can least af­ford it and helps per­pet­u­ate a cy­cle of poverty.

So say what you will about our cur­rent bail sys­tem. But don’t say it costs tax­pay­ers noth­ing.

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