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

21 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2011

See all articles by David Abrams

David Abrams

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Chris Rohlfs

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 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 d 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 S. and Rohlfs, Chris, Optimal Bail and the Value of Freedom: Evidence from the Philadelphia Bail Experiment (July 2011). Economic Inquiry, Vol. 49, Issue 3, pp. 750-770, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1874543 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2010.00288.x

David S. Abrams (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Chris Rohlfs

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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