Optimal Bail and the Value of Freedom: Evidence from the Philadelphia Bail Experiment

22 Pages Posted: 7 May 2011 Last revised: 21 Jun 2011

David Abrams

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Chris Rohlfs

Syracuse University

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2011

Abstract

This article performs a cost-benefit analysis to determine socially optimal bail levels for felony defendants. We consider jailing costs, the cost of lost freedom to incarcerated defendants, and the social costs of flight and new crimes committed by released defendants. We estimate the effects of changing bail using data from a randomized experiment. We find that the typical defendant in our sample would be willing to pay roughly $1,000 for 90 days of freedom. While imprecise, our optimal bail estimates are similar to the observed levels of bail prior to bail reform.

JEL Classification: J17, J19, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Abrams, David and Rohlfs, Chris, Optimal Bail and the Value of Freedom: Evidence from the Philadelphia Bail Experiment (May 2011). Economic Inquiry, July 2011; U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 11-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1831685

David S. Abrams

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Chris Rohlfs (Contact Author)

Syracuse University ( email )

Center for Policy Resarch
426 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www-cpr.maxwell.syr.edu/

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