Bail, Jail, and Pretrial Misconduct: The Influence of Prosecutors
56 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2019 Last revised: 9 Apr 2021
Date Written: June 20, 2020
Courts routinely use low cash bail as a financial incentive to ensure that released defendants appear in court and abstain from crime. This can create burdens for defendants with little empirical evidence on its efficacy. We exploit a prosecutor-driven reform that led to a sharp reduction in low cash bail and pretrial supervision, with no effect on pretrial detention, to test whether such incentive mechanisms succeed at their intended purpose. We find no evidence that financial collateral has a deterrent effect on failure-to-appear or pretrial crime. This paper also contributes to the literature on the role of prosecutors in criminal justice reform. We show that discretionary reforms dilute impacts and can lead to racial disparities in implementation.
Keywords: bail, prosecutors, criminal justice reform, pretrial detention
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation