At least one group of legislators in this country is responding to the harm caused by bail situations that detrimentally affect African-Americans, similar to that of the tragic case of Kalief Browder.
Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus voted 31-5 against legislation that would roll back a rule adopted by the state’s highest court which reduces the role of cash bail in pretrial release for those taken into custody, The Baltimore Sun reported. The bill was largely supported by the bail bond industry and passed by the state Senate.
The court rule does not completely stop cash bail from being a part of the process, but it does have a major effect on who goes free and who doesn’t when it’s time to post bond in the state. But the bill that came out of the Maryland Senate puts cash bail on a near equal footing when judges consider release.
“This sends a clear message to House leadership that the issue is dead for this year,” Assembly Delegate Curt Anderson told the Sun. “Allow the rule to take effect and we can come back next year.”
Sen. C. Anthony Muse said the bill, which he sponsored, actually gave poor defendants an alternative to forms of pretrial release like electronic tethers.
With the caucus vote, the bill will likely remain in committee for the for at least the near future.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who has stood in opposition to the legislation since it was sponsored, was happy with the vote because he felt the bill would put a burden of having to have cash bail on defendants who could not afford it. “The Black Caucus is an extremely important institution within the General Assembly,” said Frosh, an advocate of bail reform. “It’s speaking with a loud, strong voice…the court rule is going to make a huge difference. If it’s given an opportunity to go into effect, I believe we’ll see very positive results.”
Although this legislation is local to Maryland, it speaks to the larger nationwide issue of bail, which has a notable effect on the African-American community.
Sandra Bland, a Black woman who was set to start a new job in Texas, committed suicide while being held in custody in 2015. She was unable to make the $500 bail that would have gotten her released after an arrest in a traffic stop. Kalief Browder, was arrested and held in New York’s Rikers Island for three years because of an inability to make bail after an arrest for a robbery, whose charges were eventually dismissed. The psychological effect of being held in jail for so long ultimately led to his suicide the same year.