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Mobtown Beat

Study Examines Baltimore’s Bail System

Justice Policy Institute addresses bail-system concerns

“We’re all about Baltimore,” says Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on ways to relieve societal costs posed by the criminal justice system. Not only did JPI’s 2010 report, “Baltimore Behind Bars,” make a valiant attempt to apply some reason to the intricate, arcane craziness of Mobtown’s overcrowded jail system, but JPI recently declared September to be “Bail Month,” announcing a new report highlighting Baltimoreans’ “stories of being involved in the money-bail system and for-profit bail-bonding, and how it impacted them,” Velázquez says.

“There essentially two systems of justice,” Velázquez continues, “one for people with money [to make bail], who are essentially free and unsupervised, and one for people who don’t,” who end up sitting in jail until their charges are resolved. Velázquez explains that D.C. doesn’t have a money-bail system—charged defendants are released on pre-trial supervision, rather than having to make bail or go to jail while their charges are pending—so JPI focused on Baltimore, the closest big city to D.C. that has one.

During “Bail Month,” JPI will release the Baltimore report, as well as two others that look at bail-system concerns and solutions on a national scale. JPI has scheduled a panel discussion, “The High Price of Bail,” at 4:30 P.M. on Sept. 27, at Busboys and Poets, 5th and K streets, NW, in Washington, and Velazquez says another similar event in Baltimore is in the works.

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