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Md.'s cash bail system costs taxpayers plenty

Md.'s cash bail system costs taxpayers plenty
Officer Rex Scott, Jr. looks in on Stephanie Salter and Kimberly King of the Carroll County Public Defender's Office as they interview a client for his bail review at the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster Thursday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

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.

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

Colin Starger, Baltimore

The writer is an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and director of the Pretrial Justice Clinic.

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