Pre­trial re­lease pro­gram pro­posed for QA

The Kent Island Bay Times - - NEWS -

CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s County Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions War­den LaMonte E. Cooke or­ga­nized a June 15, meet­ing of judges, po­lice, so­cial ser­vices and lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials to learn from other coun­ties’ suc­cesses in de­creas­ing the num­ber of peo­ple jailed while await­ing trial on non-vi­o­lent of­fenses. The Pre­trial Re­lease Pro­gram is an al­ter­na­tive to in­car­cer­a­tion for in­di­vid­u­als pend­ing trial, that has been used in other coun­ties around the state.

State’s At­tor­ney Lance G. Richard­son, who at­tended the meet­ing, said, “I be­lieve this pro­gram would be a vi­able al­ter­na­tive for cer­tain de­fen­dants. Our lo­cal de­ten­tion cen­ter is over ca­pac­ity, and if we have suf­fi­cient safe­guards in place for non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers, this pre-trial option could po­ten­tially al­le­vi­ate over­crowd­ing and en­sure that de­fen­dants ap­pear in court. I’m al­ways open to new ideas and in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions. Just be­cause we have al­ways done things a cer­tain way doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bet­ter way out there.”

Queen Anne’s County District Court Judge Frank M. Kra­tovil Jr., who was also in at­ten­dance, con­curred, “This (Pre­trial Re­lease Pro­gram) is a good option for low risk peo­ple charged with a crime. I’m all for it.”

Pre­trial Re­lease Pro­grams have been ef­fec­tively used in Anne Arun­del, St. Mary’s and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties. Mary­land’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh has said, “Hun­dreds of low risk in­di­vid­u­als are de­tained each day in Mary­land jails be­cause they are poor and un­able to make bail while high-risk de­fen­dants are able to post bail, be re­leased, and are free to com­mit vi­o­lent crimes. Not only is this un­fair and un­safe, it may also be un­con­sti­tu­tional.”

Mary­land’s Court of Ap­peals in Fe­bru­ary adopted a land­mark rule aimed at end­ing the prac­tice of hold­ing crim­i­nal de­fen­dants in jail while await­ing trial only be­cause they can­not af­ford bail. The rul­ing in­structs judges and court com­mis­sion­ers to first look for other ways to en­sure that the de­fen­dant ap­pears in court for the trial date. This rule goes into ef­fect on July 1.

“Due to the in­crease in pop­u­la­tion trends in the Queen Anne’s County De­ten­tion Cen­ter re­cently, we need to look at op­tions to man­age in­car­cer­ated in­di­vid­u­als and min­i­mize in­stances of se­cu­rity is­sues and main­tain both staff and public safety,” Cooke said to those gath­ered.

“Un­der this pro­posed pro­gram, el­i­gi­ble in­di­vid­u­als in pre­trial sta­tus would be screened by trained staff and au­tho­rized by the courts for re­lease in the com­mu­nity un­der one of four lev­els of su­per­vi­sion, pend­ing their case dis­po­si­tion. They would not be await­ing trial in the De­ten­tion Cen­ter, which may be weeks or months away, al­low­ing these in­di­vid­u­als to main­tain em­ploy­ment, ac­cess var­i­ous treat­ment ser­vices in­clud­ing med­i­cal, men­tal health, drug; ed­u­ca­tional, court or­dered di­rec­tions, coun­sel­ing, etc. There are more as­pects of such a pro­gram and we wanted all of the agen­cies that we in­ter­act with along with county govern­ment to be aware of what is in­volved be­fore we move for ward.”

Su­per­in­ten­dent Terry Koko­lis, of the Anne Arun­del County Depart­ment of De­ten­tion Fa­cil­i­ties, and Margo Knight, as­sis­tant fa­cil­ity ad­min­is­tra­tor, who man­ages that agency’s pre­trial pro­gram, gave an over­view of how this pro­gram works in Anne Arun­del County.

“They will also be as­sist­ing us in de­vel­op­ing our county pro­gram and as­sist­ing in train­ing the as­signed staff, as they have with other pro­grams in Mary­land,” Cooke said.

Koko­lis said that with the pre­trial pro­gram they have in place, those charged with non-vi­o­lent crimes and re­leased pend­ing trial show up to court farm more often, greatly re­duc­ing the num­ber of those charged with fail­ure to ap­pear. As part of the pre­trial su­per­vi­sion of his staff, those with court dates are re­minded and the num­bers of those fail­ing to ap­pear de­crease by 90 per­cent.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Cooke said, “We will be work­ing on devel­op­ment of the lo­cal pro­gram in­clud­ing the writ­ing of guide­lines, lev­els of su­per­vi­sion, staffing devel­op­ment and train­ing; co­or­di­na­tion with the courts, Public De­fender’s Of­fice, and the State’s At­tor­ney’s Of­fice; and look­ing at shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion as needed with other public safety agen­cies.”

Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son said, “This sys­tem of­fers ad­di­tional over­sight to im­pact be­hav­ior changes by keep­ing non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers out of con­tact with more vi­o­lent of­fend­ers with sub­stan­tial crimes com­mit­ted. Also there is a use­ful as­pect to pro­vide early treat­ment for be­hav­ior prob­lems.”

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