The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office hosted a group of Armenian criminal justice officials this week, explaining the Pretrial Supervision Program. Major Michael Merican explained the benefits of the program and took the group on a tour of the St. Mary’s County Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Leonardtown. The Pretrial Supervision Program is used to prepare court cases for bond hearings and/or trial which provides an alternative to incarceration, reducing jail overcrowding with an emphasis on public safety.

The Criminal Justice Collaboration and Partnership Program, supported by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, brings small groups of criminal justice sector professionals representing multiple agencies to the United States for a month. The delegation from Armenia represented five different agencies to work on the issue of pretrial detention reform in their home country.

In St. Mary’s County, the Pretrial Supervision Program is administered in cooperation between the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, judges and attorneys.

“I don’t know about Armenia, but we can’t afford to keep building bigger jails and prisons in the United States,” Major Merican told the delegation. “It’s not working. But we can get smarter on how we monitor offenders.” It costs $150 a day to keep an inmate in jail, he said, while it costs $34.68 a day for a person enrolled in Pretrial Services.

There is no cost to the offender in the program. They get the medical and treatment services they need, Merican said, while they keep working at their jobs to support their families while awaiting trial.  “The community at large is very satisfied with the program. We’ve had no problems with it,” Merican said. About 20-25 percent of those incarcerated are eligible for Pretrial Services, based on a public safety assessment which includes whether that the person will appear for court.

In 2016, 19 percent of the jail’s inmates participated in Pretrial Services, followed by 18 percent in 2017. As of Sept. 14, 2018, there were 46 offenders in the Pretrial Services Program. In 2016, the compliance rate in the program was 77 percent and so far in 2018 the compliance rate is also 77 percent.

There are conditions of release into the Pretrial Services Program, including mandatory drug screening, meetings with case managers, wearing electronic monitoring units or house arrest. St. Mary’s County Circuit Court Associate Judge David Densford and St. Mary’s County District Court Administrative Judge Christy Chesser also answered questions from the Armenian delegation. St. Mary’s County Commissioners Randy Guy and Tom Jarboe also attended the tour.