Baltimore police, prosecutors, and other agencies are making the strict enforcement of probation rules a key component of their crime-fighting strategy, sweeping dangerous criminals off the streets for the slightest infractions, reports the Baltimore Sun. Some city judges are wary, saying the plan pushes them to give up their discretion in the courtroom. Police and probation agents are asking the judges to sign onto an extraordinary program targeting about 960 of the area’s most violent repeat offenders – those who have been arrested at least seven times, are involved with a gang or face handgun charges. Authorities want judges to hold suspects without bail for weeks or months before a formal hearing, and then to revoke suspended sentences and order additional prison time for even a minor probation violation.
The hesitancy by some judges worries police and probation agents, who say it undermines efforts to target a core group of offenders believed to be responsible for a disproportionate amount of Baltimore’s violence. Said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III: ” I don’t think violent offenders should get two or three chances to go out and get somebody. When [defendants] get out of line on a technical violation of probation, all we’re asking is for the judges to do what they said they would do.” Judges said it is not that simple. They don’t like to hold defendants without bail until there is a hearing to determine the seriousness of a probation violation. And even though they often accompany suspended sentences with a warning that the defendant may serve more time for such a violation, they want to carefully examine each case before sending someone to prison on a technicality.