Boots and Bail on the Ground: Assessing the Implementation of Misdemeanor Bail Reforms in Georgia

62 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 15 Jul 2020

See all articles by Andrea Woods

Andrea Woods

Independent

Sandra G. Mayson

University of Georgia School of Law

Lauren Sudeall

Georgia State University College of Law

Guthrie Armstrong

University of Georgia

Anthony Potts

University of Georgia

Date Written: July 10, 2020

Abstract

This Article presents a mixed-methods study of misdemeanor bail practice across Georgia in the wake of reform. We observed bail hearings and interviewed system actors in a representative sample of fifty-five counties in order to assess the extent to which pretrial practice conforms to legal standards clarified in Senate Bill 407 and Walker v. Calhoun. We also analyzed jail population data published by county jails and by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. We found that a handful of counties have made promising headway in adhering to law and best practices, but that the majority have some distance to go. Most counties assessed do not assure a bail hearing within forty-eight hours of arrest, provide counsel at the initial bail hearing, consistently evaluate arrestees' financial circumstances, or guarantee release within forty-eight hours of arrest for those who cannot pay bail. In a combined eighteen counties, 37% of misdemeanor arrestees remained in jail for at least three days after arrest. In DeKalb County, 53% of all those arrested on misdemeanor charges between 2000 and 2019 were jailed for three days or more, but the annual rate has declined from 63% in 2009 to 26.5% in 2019. Per capita, pretrial detention rates varied widely by county in 2019, with most of the higher rates in the southern portion of the state. Overall, the qualitative and quantitative data demonstrate both progress and substantial variation by county.

Keywords: criminal justice, bail reform, bail, criminal justice reform, misdemeanor bail, Georgia

JEL Classification: K14, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Woods, Andrea and Mayson, Sandra Gabriel and Sudeall, Lauren and Armstrong, Guthrie and Potts, Anthony, Boots and Bail on the Ground: Assessing the Implementation of Misdemeanor Bail Reforms in Georgia (July 10, 2020). Georgia Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 4, 2020, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, University of Georgia School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3648618

Andrea Woods

Independent

Sandra Gabriel Mayson

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uga.edu/profile/sandra-g-mayson

Lauren Sudeall (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

Guthrie Armstrong

University of Georgia

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

Anthony Potts

University of Georgia

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

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