Bail, Jail, and Pretrial Misconduct: The Influence of Prosecutors

56 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2019 Last revised: 9 Apr 2021

See all articles by Aurelie Ouss

Aurelie Ouss

University of Pennsylvania

Megan T. Stevenson

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: June 20, 2020

Abstract

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

Ouss, Aurelie and Stevenson, Megan, Bail, Jail, and Pretrial Misconduct: The Influence of Prosecutors (June 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3335138 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3335138

Aurelie Ouss

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Megan Stevenson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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