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Pretrial bail serves no purpose

Advocates urge that a bail reform bill backed by the Coalition for a Safe and Just Maryland be passed. (Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun video)

Sean Kennedy's recent commentary regarding bail ( "Don't abolish bail in Md., fix it," April 4) teems with misinformation. Among the worst of it is his use of discredited research. Mr. Kennedy surely knows that the research community long ago noted that Eric Helland and Alexander Taborrok's work relied on data that could not support their conclusions. The repeated use of this citation by the for-profit bail bond industry and its apologists even prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to take the unusual step of issuing a formal data advisory warning against basing policy on such studies.

The credible research — some of which my organization conducted — shows that people appear in court at the same high rates whether they pay money up front or not. Indeed, this has been demonstrated for years in the District of Columbia where money bail is not used. Last year, 95 percent of arrested people were released pretrial in D.C., and over five years 88 percent of released people made all scheduled court appearances. The district's jail, incidentally, operates at below 60 percent of its rated capacity with pretail detainees making up only about 12 percent of its population.

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In other words, money bail provides no benefits to the court whatsoever. Its continued use only fills the pockets of an industry that is determined to protect its lucrative golden goose. Meanwhile, everyone else — poor and working class defendants, the courts and taxpayers who foot the bill for incarcerating folks who would be home if they could afford money bail — loses.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Rockville

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The writer is CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute.

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