Bail Reform: New Directions for Pretrial Detention and Release
Academy for Justice, A Report on Scholarship and Criminal Justice Reform (Erik Luna ed., 2017, Forthcoming).
20 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017 Last revised: 10 Sep 2017
Date Written: March 13, 2017
Our current pretrial system imposes high costs on both the people who are detained pretrial and the taxpayers who foot the bill. These costs have prompted a surge of bail reform around the country. Reformers seek to reduce pretrial detention rates, as well as racial and socioeconomic disparities in the pretrial system, while simultaneously improving appearance rates and reducing pretrial crime. The current state of pretrial practice suggests that there is ample room for improvement. Bail hearings are often cursory, taking little time to evaluate a defendant’s risks, needs, or ability to pay. Money-bail practices lead to high rates of detention even among misdemeanor defendants and those who pose no serious risk of crime or flight. Infrequent evaluation means that the judges and magistrates who set bail have little information about how their bail-setting practices affect detention, appearance, and crime rates. Practical and low-cost interventions, such as court reminder systems, are underutilized. To promote lasting reform, this chapter identifies pretrial strategies that are both within the state’s authority and supported by empirical research. These interventions should be designed with input from stakeholders, and carefully evaluated to ensure that the desired improvements are achieved.
Keywords: Criminal law & procedure, pretrial detention or release, bail, recidivism, criminal justice, crime, conditions of release, required meetings with pretrial officers, drug testing, electronic monitoring, incarceration, statistical risk assessment, predictive justice, dangerousness, statistics
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