The number of people in Baltimore’s overcrowded jail can be reduced and millions of dollars can be saved by changing policing practices, reforming court processes, and improving jail and post-jail services, the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute contended today. The advocacy group said that the city is detailing some people in jail unneccessarily and the courts are clogged with too many cases.
A report by the group charged that more than half of those in jail are not offered bail. Nine out of 10 people in jail are awaiting trial and have not been found guilty of the current offense – far higher than the national average of two-thirds. Most people are being charged with nonviolent offenses such as drug and property offenses and violations of probation. African Americans are overrepresented, comprising about 66 percent of the general population of Baltimore, but 94 percent of the people in the jail. The state of Maryland, which operates the jail complex, is planning two new jail facilities in Baltimore — one for youth being tried as adults and another for women– at an estimated cost of $280 million. The new report notes that while these facilities will be an improvement over aging facilities, they may needlessly increase the number of people incarcerated in the jail. The Open Society Institute-Baltimore supported the research that led to the report, which includes recommendations on fixing problems.