Criminal Justice - Bail & Pretrial Practices
Pretrial risk assessment is used to determine whether a defendant should be released prior to court appearance, and if so, under what conditions (such as cash bail, electronic monitoring, periodic check-in with the court, urinalysis, restitution, community service, counseling, etc.):
Bail Basics in Pennsylvania - a law office description of how cash bail typically works in Pennsylvania
- will the defendant show up in court at the appointed time?
("Appearance Rate"; FTA = Failure to Appear)
- will the defendant commit another crime prior to appearing in court?
For a brief summary of cash bail and pretrial issues in Pennsylvania, see "The Pipeline to Prison: Pretrial Reform" (June 2018).
("Safety Rate", NCA = New Criminal Activity)
Problems / Issues with Cash Bail
- The Cash Bail Crisis in Allegheny County (ACLU news release)
- Punishing Poverty: Cash Bail in Allegheny County (ACLU report: Oct. 2019)
- Bail Reform - The John Oliver Experience (youtube: 17:45, June 7, 2015)
John Oliver explains why America's bail system is better for the reality tv industry than it is for the justice system.
- Brave New Films - short videos on Bail
- TED Talk: Robin Steinberg: What if we ended the injustice of bail?
- America's outcasts: the women trapped in a cruel cycle of exploitation
(The Guardian, June 29, 2018)
How women are trapped into prostitution by cash bail bond.
- John Legend and Rashad Robinson: End money bail now (CNN: May 22, 2018)
- The Dangerous Domino Effect of Not Making Bail (The Atlantic, April 12, 2016)
- The Bail Trap (New York Times, August 16, 2015)
- The Kalief Browder Story (available on netflix) Kalief Browder took his own life in 2015 at the age of 22, after being held in jail for nearly three years without trial for a crime he did not commit.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri73Dkttxj8 (movie trailer)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VchmU5NP_U (Democracy Now follow-up)
- Lehigh County Bail guidelines
- Lehigh County Approved Bail Agencies
- Northampton County - Court Costs, Fines and Fees (PDF)
Cash Bail Reform - Advocacy
- Releasing people pretrial doesn't harm public safety (Prison Policy Initiative, Nov. 17, 2020)
This study looks at 13 jurisdictions - four states, as well as nine cities and counties. When these states, cities, and counties began releasing more people pretrial, there were no corresponding waves in crime.
- People's Hearing on Bail and Pretrial Punishment, Philadelphia
January 20 event held at Bible Way Baptist Church, organized by ACLU, Philly Bail Fund, the Philly Community Bail Fund, the #No215Jail Coalition, POWER Interfaith/Live Free, and others.
- ACLU announcement
- Facebook Event
- Twitter Comments
- Livestream Video Recordings (PhillyWeRise): video1 (14:02); video2 (1:02:33)
- Petition to End Cash Bail in Philadelphia
- #No215Jail Coalition - Philadelphia campaign to end cash bail
- Bail Bond resources: could this be a useful model for Lehigh Valley?
- National Bail Out - is "a formation of Black organizers who are committed to building a community based movement to end pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration."
- America's cash bail system is a disgrace - and how to get rid of it (Apr. 21, 2016)
- State Innovation Exchange - Criminal Justice Reform (including bail)
Pretrial Reform - Resources and Examples
- The National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA) has a number of publications that discuss best practices for pretrial assessment and bail
- Pretrial Justice Institute - resources on ending cash bail and related topics
- Fairfax judge rules cash bond unconstitutional (Virginia Mercury: Nov. 13, 2020)
A circuit court judge in Fairfax appears to be the first in Virginia to rule that keeping an indigent defendant in jail in lieu of a cash bond is unconstitutional, writing that it violates the Due Process Clause by forcing poor people awaiting trial to remain confined in jail while the wealthy walk free.
- Questions and Best Practices for Reducing Jail Population (Prison Policy Initiative, May 2019)
This report includes resources on pretrial practices, fines and fees, and other policies that lead to excessive incarceration.
- What Changed After D.C. Ended Cash Bail (NPR: Sept. 2, 2018)
- Washington, DC Pretrial Facts and Figures (2014-2017) (DC Pretrial Services Agency, March 2018)
- Release Rates for Pretrial Defendants in Washington, DC (2017)
- Release Rates for Pretrial Defendants in Washington, DC (2016)
- When it comes to pretrial release, few other jurisdictions do it D.C.'s way
(Washington Post, July 4, 2016)
Washington, DC, releases about 94% of offenders pretrial without cash bail (but often with other conditions), and with results that are typically just as effective as cash bail for FTA and NCA.
(See "A Framework for Pretrial Justice Reform" (page 44), for comparison with other places that release at least some offenders without cash bail.)
- Philadelphia City Council Resolution to End Cash Bail
- Larry Krasner (Philadelphia District Attorney): prosecutors will no longer seek cash bail for people accused of some misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies (Feb. 21, 2018)
- Larry Krasner memo - which recommends no cash bail for non-violent offenses
(February 15, 2018).
Note, however, that judges don't necessarily follow the no-cash-bail recommendation of prosecutors
- Philadelphia economic impact study: the city could save $75 million a year by ending cash bail and sending thousands of people arrested each year for nonviolent, low-level crimes home to await their court dates. (Oct. 26, 2017)
- Recent Research on Cash Bail and Pretrial Detention (presentation slides: Sept. 12, 2016)
Summarizes significant issues with cash bail system in Philadelphia and problems with implementation of alternatives to cash bail.
- California Bail Reform - recent news reports
- New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform (CJR) - reports, publications, and news stories on New Jersey's bail reform, including this annual report:
- 2017cjrannual.pdf - 2018 Annual Report on New Jersey's Criminal Justice Reform (CJR) that almost eliminates cash bail, including detailed description of how the system works.
- Criminal justice (bail) reform in New Jersey (Dec. 30, 2016)
- New Jersey Bail Reform - other recent news reports
- Illinois law to change rules for paying cash to get out of jail (June 9, 2017)
- Pretrial Decision-Making: How A Model Pretrial Services Program Changed Allegheny County's Criminal Justice System (PDF: Allegheny County 2014)
- A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency (PDF, February 2017)
Other related documents from the National Institute of Corrections
- 5th Judicial District of Pennsylvania: Pretrial Supervision, Measuring What Works (Allegheny County PA - 2017)
- What do Criminal Justice Professionals Think About Risk Assessment at Pretrial?
(Arnold Foundation: 2017)
Other Pretrial Resources from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation
Consequences of Pretrial Detention
Criminal Justice - Risk Assessment Tools
Specific tools include:
- Lehigh County, PA, uses a (proprietary) subjective Risk Assessment (pretrial) and Wisconsin Risk and Needs Assessment tools (for reentry)
- Northampton County, PA, uses a pretrial risk assessment tool that is similar to New Jersey's.
Tools descriptions and evaluation:
- Public Safety Assessment (PSA)
- Wisconsin - Wisconsin Risk/Needs (WRN) & Wisconsin Risk and Needs-Revised (WRN-R)
- Ohio - Ohio Risk Assessment System, including the
- Ohio Risk Assessment System-Pretrial Assessment Tool (ORAS-PAT),
- Ohio Risk Assessment System-Community Supervision Tool (ORAS-CST),
- Ohio Risk Assessment System-Community Supervision Screening Tool (ORAS- CSST),
- Ohio Risk Assessment System-Prison Intake Tool (ORAS-PIT), and
- Ohio Risk Assessment System-Reentry Tool (ORAS-RT)
- Public Safety Assessment (PSA) - overview and detailed description of this data-driven risk assessment tool (now used in Allegheny County, PA, in New Jersey, and about 20 other places)
- "Post Bail" (NBC news: Aug. 22, 2017)
Extended discussion of risk assessment tools used in lieu of cash bail.
- Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform (PDF - Harvard Law School: Oct. 2016)
Extended discussion of what works and what doesn't as alternatives to cash bail (p. 14ff).
- Using Offender Risk and Needs Assessment Information at Sentencing
- Risk and Needs Assessment and Race in the Criminal Justice System, May 31, 2016
By the CSG (Council of State Governments) Justice Center Staff
- Big data may be reinforcing racial bias in the criminal justice system (Washington Post: Feb. 10, 2017)
- Risk Assessment in Criminal Sentencing, May 31, 2016
- What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse
- Risk-instruments-Guide.pdf - see esp. Table 3 (p.15) for evaluation of Ohio & Wisconsin tools.
- ORAS_FinalReport.pdf - compares Ohio and Wisconsin tools (see esp. pp.34,40).
Bail Bond Insurance Industry
Also see other Resources on Criminal Justice Reform.