La Plata, MD – Governor Hogan issued Executive Order 20-04-18-01 on Saturday, April 18, 2020 which, in the light of COVID-19, details some circumstances and factors that Division of Correction (DOC) prisoners may be released early from confinement. While the Order applies to all inmates in the custody of the DOC, it does not apply to those inmates in the custody of local detention centers like the Charles County Detention Center. Nevertheless, I welcome this executive order and view the spirit contained within it as guidance for the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in Charles County.
As the State’s Attorney, I am intent that my office does everything it can to help prevent the spread and impact of COVID-19. While doing so, the public must also be protected from criminal behavior in our streets. This intersection of public safety based on a pandemic, on one hand, and public safety based on crime, on the other hand, makes decision-making more difficult than ever before. The Charles County community, however, should be confident that, based on my observations, all of the decision-makers in the Charles County CJS are making fully informed and well-considered decisions that they sincerely believe are in the best interest of everyone – including detained individuals – in our community.
From the beginning of this crisis, the State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) has worked with the other branches of the CJS to reduce the jail’s population. Even though at the start of the crisis the detention center was occupied at less than 30%, the CJS still sought to reduce the population as low as possible while at the same time maintaining public safety. Many actions have been taken. For instance, at the Sheriff’s request, the Courts and the SAO cooperated to, almost immediately, put an end to work release and weekend sentences at the jail, thereby reducing the number of people coming in and out of the detention center daily.
The SAO has been reviewing the situation of every detainee in the detention center, whether or not a detainee or counsel has made a request for release, to determine whether their release would be appropriate and, if so, under what circumstances would they be released. As a result, many detainees have already been granted some type of release either by way of furlough, a reconsideration/modification of sentence, home detention, case dismissal, etc.
Also, well before the Governor’s latest order on this subject, the SAO has reviewed the situation of a number of inmates under the jurisdiction of DOC and housed someplace other than our local detention center. At the time of this press release, at least one of those individuals has been released.
Because of the proactive and robust efforts by the Charles County CJS to reduce our jail population, the number of cases that fall under the umbrella of the Governor’s new order may be small. That notwithstanding, the SAO, with the Governor’s order in mind, will re-look at the situation of every detainee/inmate in the local jail and make our recommendations to the Court if and when appropriate.
I ask everyone to follow the advice of public health experts and comply with all executive orders concerning COVID-19. It truly can be a matter of life or death.