About The Program

The Baltimore Bail Diversion Program, piloted by the Work First Foundation, offers an innovative solution to the costly and predatory cash bail system. Across the nation, broader criminal justice reform initiatives like ending cash bail are becoming increasingly well-known. However, the Work First Foundation’s Bail Diversion Program is one of the only programs that utilizes economic employment as bail diversion. This groundbreaking project has the potential to change the paradigm of cash bail and make a significant difference in the judicial system at large. 


In June 2017, the Work First Foundation joined forces with Judge Nicole Pastore-Klein of the District Court of Baltimore City to design a program that offers employment as an alternative to bail and incarceration. Through this partnership, the Bail Diversion Program was born. Instead of forcing low-income individuals to sit in jail as they await trial, presumed innocent, the Bail Diversion Program refers them to job readiness and placement services through the Work First Foundation, giving them the opportunity to be productive members of society through employment.

Baltimore is my home...I wanted to find a way for the Court to help the men and women of Baltimore who are rehabilitating their lives.
— Judge Nicole Pastore-Klein

How it Works

When justice-involved individuals are referred to the Bail Diversion Program, we work to address their immediate needs, which can include stable housing, childcare, transportation, and professional clothing. Once these needs are addressed, they are enrolled in job training services, such as resume-building and interview practice. The training period, ranging from 2 weeks to 1 year, prepares them for jobs in a wide variety of fields. Once they are more prepared to enter the workforce, we work with them to find sustainable and stable employment that best fits their skills and qualifications.

The Impact

By giving individuals the opportunity to work, the Bail Diversion Program cuts the cost of jail, helps individuals improve their financial situation, and increases the chance of favorable trial outcomes. The Bail Diversion Program plays a critical role in the lives of justice-involved individuals by giving them a proactive step onto the path of stability. 



last updated 7/23/19






participants placed in employment so far


participants graduate training


dedicated pretrial services officer


district court judges refer participants


with drug-related charges


charged with a violent crime



Participant Demographics


Looking Forward

The Work First Foundation continues to implement the Bail Diversion Program in Baltimore, Maryland, and sees it as a source of success and hope. Moving forward, we hope to research whether employment as bail diversion decreases both the odds of an individual ending up in the prison system and the cost to taxpayers. We are actively looking for partners to conduct this research with, as well as funding opportunities to expand the program to new locations.

In the Media

“New Baltimore City District Court Re-Entry Project Helps Ex-Offenders Find Jobs” — Maryland Courts
”We Need This: Baltimore Bail Diversion Program” — NowThis News

[The Baltimore Bail Diversion Program] has helped me support my family and do something positive.
— Shaqell Ratchford, the first participant of the Baltimore Bail Diversion Program