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“Give Us Free”: Addressing Racial Disparities in Bail Determinations

“This article considers racial disparities that occur nationally in the bail determination process, due in large part to the lack of uniformity, resources, and information provided to officials in bail proceedings. It argues that the almost unbridled decision making power afforded to bail officials is often influenced by improper considerations such as the defendant’s financial resources or the race of the defendant. As a result of these failures, the bail determination process has resulted not only in racial inequalities in bail and pretrial detention decisions, but also in the over-incarceration of pretrial defendants and the overcrowding of jails nationwide. The article looks to the example of the ongoing work of criminal justice officials in Saint Louis County, Minnesota to address racial disparities in bail determinations in their county.” (p. 919). This article is divided into four parts. Part I-Bail Determinations: Federal and State Laws and Practices. Part II-Racial Disparities in Bail Determinations: the first generation studies of race and bail from 1970-200; the second generation from 2001-2012; and the cause of racial disparities in bail determinations. Part III-The Racial Justice Improvement Project and Pretrial Racial Justice Reform. Part IV-A Formula for Pretrial Justice Reform: Lessons Learned from Duluth and Beyond.