The Abell Foundation provided $73,100 to help establish the Pretrial Justice Clinic at the University of Baltimore. The Pretrial Justice Clinic will focus on the “front end” of incarceration and seek to reform a broken bail system that wrongfully incarcerates thousands of people awaiting trial every year in Baltimore City. The Clinic will work closely with the Office of the Public Defender and coordinate with advocates to develop strategies focused on bail litigation that will fit within the broader goal of reducing mass incarceration in Maryland.
The Pretrial Justice Clinic builds on the novel litigation model that Zina Makar pioneered at the Office of the Public Defender (OPD). Using habeas corpus petitions to challenge improper bail determinations, Makar has secured the release of more than a dozen individual clients since the project started in December of 2014. The same habeas form developed by Makar secured the release of 101 citizens wrongfully imprisoned during the aftermath of the shooting of Freddie Gray.
Law students participating in the newly created clinic will have the opportunity to represent clients in bail review hearings, to file habeas corpus petitions challenging unlawful and unjust bail determinations, and engage in appellate litigation to press for fairer standards in the bail system. Additionally, students will be educated about the legal and social consequences of the current bail system and other approaches to bail so they, in turn, can educate others.