Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been concerned about the possibility of infection at the Prince George’s County detention center and in response continue to work proactively with the Office of the Public Defender and the Department of Corrections to reduce the jail population. My office was the first in the state of Maryland to initiate what we refer to as ‘Operation Safe Release’ as a way to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus in the jail.
On March 1, there were 718 inmates held in the county’s detention center. As of May 29, there were 519 who remain in custody, most of whom are charged with very serious offenses or serving out sentences.
Of the 519 inmates currently in custody, 176 are held on murder or attempted murder charges. Below are the number of defendants held on the following charges:
· 83 on armed robbery or related charges;
· 36 on rape or attempted rape charges;
· 37 on first degree assault charges;
· 26 on armed carjacking or related charges;
· 26 on sex abuse of a minor charges;
· 27 on second degree assault charges (18 of which are domestic violence cases and the other nine include special circumstances);
· 25 on firearm or handgun related charges;
· 18 on violation of probation or protective order;
· 14 on burglary related charges;
· 6 on arson related charges;
· 6 on possession with the intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance;
· 5 on human trafficking or kidnapping charges;
· 4 on child abuse charges;
· 4 on manslaughter related charges;
· 3 on child pornography related charges;
· 3 on sex offense related charges;
· 2 on motor vehicle theft related charges;
· 2 on theft scheme charges;
· 2 on attempted poison charges;
· 1 on first degree escape charges; and
· 1 on retaliate for testifying (witness intimidation) charges
Of the 12 remaining defendants, a few were ordered released during an earlier bond hearing and some referred to mental health court for placement or services. Additionally, there are a few inmates held on out-of-county cases (including fugitive warrants) and are pending transfer or extradition. It should also be noted that included in the 519 Average Daily Population number are approximately 50 inmates serving out county sentences at the detention facility.
My first priority is the safety of our victims and the community at large. I am very proud of the careful and diligent work of my office to ensure the safe release of almost 1,300 individuals to date. This number includes those released during an initial appearance hearing before a commissioner, shortly after arrest, where my office recommended release. To this end, not only have we safely released inmates already committed and awaiting trials or serving out their sentences, but we have prevented people from being processed into the facility as well.
Under Operation Safe Release, each case is reviewed to determine the appropriate recommendation for release. We actively participate in these initial appearance hearings and make recommendations for the release of certain defendants based on the nature of the pending charges and their criminal history.
Operation Safe Release does not and cannot guarantee the release of everyone who comes into the jail, nor is it intended to do so. We have not, and will not recommend the release of defendants who are dangerous.
My job is not to let everyone out of prison, even in the face of COVID-19. Rather, it is to protect our community and all victims. My first priority remains public safety. That is my charge.
— AISHA N. BRAVEBOY
The writer, a Democrat, is state’s attorney for Prince George’s County.
Editor’s note: Ms. Braveboy is responding to a commentary that appeared in Maryland Matters on May 29.