An O'Malley spokeswoman said they were looking for a solution that "will not just address the Richmond decision but improve our pretrial system overall."

Paul B. DeWolfe, head of the public defender's office, said he believes the change would bring the state into compliance with the court ruling because an administrative official, rather than a member of the judiciary, would make the first decision with the help of the computerized analysis.

The new pretrial agency would also have the job of supervising defendants out on the street and connecting them with any social or medical services they might need.

Other parts of the country, including Washington, D.C., and Kentucky, use risk assessments in combination with pretrial service agencies. Officials in both places say it is effective at getting people to court and keeping the public safe.

The legislative proposal broadly follows recommendations set out by a legislative task force last year, but that group also called for eliminating money bail entirely — defendants would either be held, or not, depending on a variety of factors. The proposal drew opposition from the bail bonds industry.

DeWolfe said the real test of the proposed new system would be how quickly defendants are processed.

"The question remains whether or not the proposal would add to the length of time someone arrested stays in jail prior to seeing a judge," DeWolfe said.

Scott Shellenberger, the Baltimore County state's attorney, said the existing system works well. But with the court ruling on the books, he said, the new plan "is a smart and reasonably priced thing to do."

A number of counties already run their own pretrial services agencies, and Shellenberger said he believes they would be allowed to keep them, as long as they decide to use the state's computerized risk assessment tool. He would support that move in Baltimore County.

Shellenberger said the timeline to establish the new pretrial agency and get the risk assessment up and running is "feasible, but I think it's going to be challenging."

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