December 22nd 2016: Memorial Episcopal Church Issues Letter on Bail Reform in the State of Maryland
The Honorable Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge
The Court of Appeal of Maryland
Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
Annapolis, MD 21401
Dear Honorable Barbera,
Memorial Episcopal Church has spent the last 45 years working with poor and indigent residents of West Baltimore. We provide food, clothes, housing, job counseling and access to drug treatment services. Over that period we have seen first-hand the destabilizing effect that the ‘money bail’ system has on indigent clients. We are writing to support the revised Rule 4-216.1 which provides clearer guidance to Maryland judges in limiting the setting of money bail. The core of this guidance addresses the application of money bail to defendants commensurate with their financial capability and refraining from bail amounts that defendants cannot afford in lieu of pre-trial release. We agree with the Attorney General that setting unaffordable money bail violates the due process rights of defendants and is unconstitutional.
The Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure provides excellent documentation of the extensive research conducted on excessive money bail and its impact on indigent defendants. There is no evidence that an equitable and judicious application of pre-trial release for people not representing a clear safety risk endangers the community.
In our scriptures we are instructed over and over again to care for the poor, the foreigner and the prisoner. The only thing that a lengthy pre-trial detention improves for most arrestees is their likelihood to re-offend. Even a short detention can lead to loss of job or housing, and disrupt family unity. Pre-trial release services and risk assessment tools have been effectively utilized to determine flight risk and aid in securing public safety in jurisdictions nationally and can be applied to Maryland. Money bail bears no relation to the community’s safety and serves only to incarcerate and punish economically-deprived people and their families before trial.
We ask that you adopt Rule 4-216.1 and help us stabilize our communities.
The Rev Grey Maggiano David Hornbeck
Rector, Memorial Episcopal Church Co-Chair, Memorial Justice Committee
Member, Memorial Justice Committee
The Social Justice Ministry, long an informal ministry at Memorial, was resurrected in 2015 via members of the congregation who had been attending Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) meetings for some time. Following a Liturgy and Living session with Libby Longino from BUILD and many regulars from the Tuesday morning Peace and Justice Eucharist, David and Becky Hornbeck felt the call to get involved.
A Social Justice committee was convened in the weeks following that L&L session, and Memorial has been extremely active in BUILD’s election year activities. For more information, or to find out how to help, please email the committee chair.
The members of the Social Justice ministry are:
David and Becky Hornbeck, Co-chairs The Rev. Grey Maggiano, Rector
Lois Eldred, Senior Warden Monty Howard, Junior Warden
Steve Howard Stephanie Hull
Noah Stone Jamie Griffith
Pam Fleming Guy Hollyday
Wendy Shuford Erin Kelly