ANNAPOLIS — Legislation that would have permitted judges to set cash bail during pretrial services may not get passed this year.
The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus overwhelmingly voted to keep a ruling made in February by the state’s Court of Appeals that judges and court commissioners find other alternatives in pretrial services before implementing cash bail which affects those who can’t afford to pay for their release.
More directly, the 31-5 vote opposed Senate Bill 983 sponsored by state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Fort Washington.
Muse said Friday the cash bail option provides another selection such as GPS ankle monitors. He also said some defendants may have to shell out additional money to pay for a urinalysis test and a probation officer.
Muse said if his legislation, which passed last week in the Senate 29-18, doesn’t move out of the House’s Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, then he would suggest at least studying the topic “to fix the system.”
Nearly half of the black caucus members are Democrats in the House, so having the bill passed there may not happen.
“We are all trying to do the same thing and that is to make sure poor people do not remain in jail,” Muse said. “We’re simply divided on how to get this done.”
One of his colleagues, state Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-District 24) of Landover, voted against the bill in the Senate and the caucus.
“That black caucus has been wonderful this year,” she said. “We can’t have our African-American babies locked up. This justice system needs to be reformed.”
Common Cause Maryland, a campaign watchdog group based in Annapolis, released a report in January that shows the state ranked third in the nation in donations from the bail bond industry.
The organization found that $87,000 poured into campaign coffers last year.
A representative from the Maryland Bail Bond Association could not be reached for comment Friday.