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Bail

“The history of bail and the law intertwined with [this] history tell us that the three goals underlying the bail process are to maximize release while simultaneously maximizing court appearance and public safety.” -- Timothy R. Schnacke, Fundamentals of Bail

Courts in the United States process millions of criminal cases annually. Each requires a judicial officer to determine the conditions of a defendant’s release pending adjudication—bail. Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in the criminal case processing, designated as a “critical stage” by the United States Supreme Court where liberty and due process interests are paramount. Justice systems that administer bail effectively have as their overarching goals assuring a defendant’s return to court and safeguarding the community. To help balance the individual’s right to reasonable bail with the public’s expectation of safety, these systems assess the likelihood of missed court appearances or new criminal activity using factors shown by research to be related to pretrial misconduct and provide supervision designed to address these risks. Moreover, these systems give judicial officers clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions. As a result, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, public safety is enhanced and, most significantly, the pretrial release process is administered fairly.

Unfortunately, most local justice systems lack truly effective bail decision making components. Most judicial officers do not receive the information needed in bail setting to make the best decisions about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk found within the defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, to regularly screen detained defendants for release eligibility, or to safeguard individual rights and community safety.

The shortcomings of the current bail system have made bail reform part of the larger national discussion on improving America’s criminal justice systems. For most justice systems in America, achieving true bail reform will mean going beyond technical changes to a deeper and more holistic change in culture and attitudes about the concept of pretrial release; the rights of pretrial defendants; and what is truly needed to reasonably assure future court appearance and community safety. In order to achieve meaningful bail reform, all elements of an effective pretrial justice system must be defined and in place.

During the broadcast presenters will: Define the framework for developing a high functioning pretrial justice system; Discuss the importance of bail history and the legal processes underlying it; Identify the essential elements of a legal and evidence based pretrial justice system; Identify the importance of the criminal justice system to support a legal and evidenced based pretrial services agency; and Discuss the differences between technical and adaptive change within organizations and the effects on implementation.

This broadcast will answer the following questions: What is the roadmap to pretrial justice reform? Where do we begin? What is the history of bail reform, and why is it important to your work today? What are the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial system? What outcomes could you expect from collaboration among pretrial justice stakeholders? What changes are needed to become a high functioning pretrial justice system? Have you ever asked the question “What are the benefits of developing a pretrial agency?”

Pretrial Justice Cover
Segment One - Why Pretrial Justice? Why Now?

“The history of bail and the law intertwined with [this] history tell us that the three goals underlying the bail process are to maximize release while simultaneously maximizing court appearance and public safety.” -- Timothy R. Schnacke, Fundamentals of Bail

Courts in the United States process millions of criminal cases annually. Each requires a judicial officer to determine the conditions of a defendant’s release pending adjudication—bail. Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in the criminal case processing, designated as a “critical stage” by the United States Supreme Court where liberty and due process interests are paramount. Justice systems that administer bail effectively have as their overarching goals assuring a defendant’s return to court and safeguarding the community. To help balance the individual’s right to reasonable bail with the public’s expectation of safety, these systems assess the likelihood of missed court appearances or new criminal activity using factors shown by research to be related to pretrial misconduct and provide supervision designed to address these risks. Moreover, these systems give judicial officers clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions. As a result, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, public safety is enhanced and, most significantly, the pretrial release process is administered fairly.

Unfortunately, most local justice systems lack truly effective bail decision making components. Most judicial officers do not receive the information needed in bail setting to make the best decisions about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk found within the defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, to regularly screen detained defendants for release eligibility, or to safeguard individual rights and community safety.

The shortcomings of the current bail system have made bail reform part of the larger national discussion on improving America’s criminal justice systems. For most justice systems in America, achieving true bail reform will mean going beyond technical changes to a deeper and more holistic change in culture and attitudes about the concept of pretrial release; the rights of pretrial defendants; and what is truly needed to reasonably assure future court appearance and community safety. In order to achieve meaningful bail reform, all elements of an effective pretrial justice system must be defined and in place.

During the broadcast presenters will: Define the framework for developing a high functioning pretrial justice system; Discuss the importance of bail history and the legal processes underlying it; Identify the essential elements of a legal and evidence based pretrial justice system; Identify the importance of the criminal justice system to support a legal and evidenced based pretrial services agency; and Discuss the differences between technical and adaptive change within organizations and the effects on implementation.

This broadcast will answer the following questions: What is the roadmap to pretrial justice reform? Where do we begin? What is the history of bail reform, and why is it important to your work today? What are the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial system? What outcomes could you expect from collaboration among pretrial justice stakeholders? What changes are needed to become a high functioning pretrial justice system? Have you ever asked the question “What are the benefits of developing a pretrial agency?”

Pretrial Justice Cover
Segment Two - Bail History and the Law

“The history of bail and the law intertwined with [this] history tell us that the three goals underlying the bail process are to maximize release while simultaneously maximizing court appearance and public safety.” -- Timothy R. Schnacke, Fundamentals of Bail

Courts in the United States process millions of criminal cases annually. Each requires a judicial officer to determine the conditions of a defendant’s release pending adjudication—bail. Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in the criminal case processing, designated as a “critical stage” by the United States Supreme Court where liberty and due process interests are paramount. Justice systems that administer bail effectively have as their overarching goals assuring a defendant’s return to court and safeguarding the community. To help balance the individual’s right to reasonable bail with the public’s expectation of safety, these systems assess the likelihood of missed court appearances or new criminal activity using factors shown by research to be related to pretrial misconduct and provide supervision designed to address these risks. Moreover, these systems give judicial officers clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions. As a result, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, public safety is enhanced and, most significantly, the pretrial release process is administered fairly.

Unfortunately, most local justice systems lack truly effective bail decision making components. Most judicial officers do not receive the information needed in bail setting to make the best decisions about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk found within the defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, to regularly screen detained defendants for release eligibility, or to safeguard individual rights and community safety.

The shortcomings of the current bail system have made bail reform part of the larger national discussion on improving America’s criminal justice systems. For most justice systems in America, achieving true bail reform will mean going beyond technical changes to a deeper and more holistic change in culture and attitudes about the concept of pretrial release; the rights of pretrial defendants; and what is truly needed to reasonably assure future court appearance and community safety. In order to achieve meaningful bail reform, all elements of an effective pretrial justice system must be defined and in place.

During the broadcast presenters will: Define the framework for developing a high functioning pretrial justice system; Discuss the importance of bail history and the legal processes underlying it; Identify the essential elements of a legal and evidence based pretrial justice system; Identify the importance of the criminal justice system to support a legal and evidenced based pretrial services agency; and Discuss the differences between technical and adaptive change within organizations and the effects on implementation.

This broadcast will answer the following questions: What is the roadmap to pretrial justice reform? Where do we begin? What is the history of bail reform, and why is it important to your work today? What are the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial system? What outcomes could you expect from collaboration among pretrial justice stakeholders? What changes are needed to become a high functioning pretrial justice system? Have you ever asked the question “What are the benefits of developing a pretrial agency?”

Pretrial Justice Cover
Segment Three - High Functioning Pretrial System

“The history of bail and the law intertwined with [this] history tell us that the three goals underlying the bail process are to maximize release while simultaneously maximizing court appearance and public safety.” -- Timothy R. Schnacke, Fundamentals of Bail

Courts in the United States process millions of criminal cases annually. Each requires a judicial officer to determine the conditions of a defendant’s release pending adjudication—bail. Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in the criminal case processing, designated as a “critical stage” by the United States Supreme Court where liberty and due process interests are paramount. Justice systems that administer bail effectively have as their overarching goals assuring a defendant’s return to court and safeguarding the community. To help balance the individual’s right to reasonable bail with the public’s expectation of safety, these systems assess the likelihood of missed court appearances or new criminal activity using factors shown by research to be related to pretrial misconduct and provide supervision designed to address these risks. Moreover, these systems give judicial officers clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions. As a result, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, public safety is enhanced and, most significantly, the pretrial release process is administered fairly.

Unfortunately, most local justice systems lack truly effective bail decision making components. Most judicial officers do not receive the information needed in bail setting to make the best decisions about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk found within the defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, to regularly screen detained defendants for release eligibility, or to safeguard individual rights and community safety.

The shortcomings of the current bail system have made bail reform part of the larger national discussion on improving America’s criminal justice systems. For most justice systems in America, achieving true bail reform will mean going beyond technical changes to a deeper and more holistic change in culture and attitudes about the concept of pretrial release; the rights of pretrial defendants; and what is truly needed to reasonably assure future court appearance and community safety. In order to achieve meaningful bail reform, all elements of an effective pretrial justice system must be defined and in place.

During the broadcast presenters will: Define the framework for developing a high functioning pretrial justice system; Discuss the importance of bail history and the legal processes underlying it; Identify the essential elements of a legal and evidence based pretrial justice system; Identify the importance of the criminal justice system to support a legal and evidenced based pretrial services agency; and Discuss the differences between technical and adaptive change within organizations and the effects on implementation.

This broadcast will answer the following questions: What is the roadmap to pretrial justice reform? Where do we begin? What is the history of bail reform, and why is it important to your work today? What are the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial system? What outcomes could you expect from collaboration among pretrial justice stakeholders? What changes are needed to become a high functioning pretrial justice system? Have you ever asked the question “What are the benefits of developing a pretrial agency?”

Pretrial Justice Cover
Segment Four - Essential Elements of a Pretrial Agency

“The history of bail and the law intertwined with [this] history tell us that the three goals underlying the bail process are to maximize release while simultaneously maximizing court appearance and public safety.” -- Timothy R. Schnacke, Fundamentals of Bail

Courts in the United States process millions of criminal cases annually. Each requires a judicial officer to determine the conditions of a defendant’s release pending adjudication—bail. Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in the criminal case processing, designated as a “critical stage” by the United States Supreme Court where liberty and due process interests are paramount. Justice systems that administer bail effectively have as their overarching goals assuring a defendant’s return to court and safeguarding the community. To help balance the individual’s right to reasonable bail with the public’s expectation of safety, these systems assess the likelihood of missed court appearances or new criminal activity using factors shown by research to be related to pretrial misconduct and provide supervision designed to address these risks. Moreover, these systems give judicial officers clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions. As a result, unnecessary pretrial detention is minimized, public safety is enhanced and, most significantly, the pretrial release process is administered fairly.

Unfortunately, most local justice systems lack truly effective bail decision making components. Most judicial officers do not receive the information needed in bail setting to make the best decisions about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk found within the defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, to regularly screen detained defendants for release eligibility, or to safeguard individual rights and community safety.

The shortcomings of the current bail system have made bail reform part of the larger national discussion on improving America’s criminal justice systems. For most justice systems in America, achieving true bail reform will mean going beyond technical changes to a deeper and more holistic change in culture and attitudes about the concept of pretrial release; the rights of pretrial defendants; and what is truly needed to reasonably assure future court appearance and community safety. In order to achieve meaningful bail reform, all elements of an effective pretrial justice system must be defined and in place.

During the broadcast presenters will: Define the framework for developing a high functioning pretrial justice system; Discuss the importance of bail history and the legal processes underlying it; Identify the essential elements of a legal and evidence based pretrial justice system; Identify the importance of the criminal justice system to support a legal and evidenced based pretrial services agency; and Discuss the differences between technical and adaptive change within organizations and the effects on implementation.

This broadcast will answer the following questions: What is the roadmap to pretrial justice reform? Where do we begin? What is the history of bail reform, and why is it important to your work today? What are the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial system? What outcomes could you expect from collaboration among pretrial justice stakeholders? What changes are needed to become a high functioning pretrial justice system? Have you ever asked the question “What are the benefits of developing a pretrial agency?”

Pretrial Justice Cover
Segment Five - Resources and Next Steps

"In an attempt to reduce jail overcrowding, attention is turning to the 63 percent of people held in county jails who have not been convicted of a crime. Many of these people are waiting for their day in court in jail — not because they pose a risk to public safety, but simply because they cannot afford to post bail … This publication examines the challenges of relying on a monetary bail system and highlights existing solutions, such as pretrial services, that save money, reduce racial disparities, alleviate jail bed space, and promote public safety" (p. 1-2). Sections of this report cover: background on the monetary bail system; use of monetary bail creates income and racial disparities; bail release definitions; pretrial detention results in adverse outcomes; collateral consequences; a cash-dependent system does not promote public safety; pretrial services are effective alternatives to monetary bail; and in California's post-Realignment era.

Pretrial Services: An Effective Alternative to Monetary Bail Cover

In 2016, Leslie Turner was arrested in North Las Vegas, Nevada because she failed to pay for a traffic ticket. In the months prior, Ms. Turner struggled to keep her head above water. Her son was born two months premature, which resulted in after-birth complications, and was also diagnosed with Clonus, “a condition that results in involuntary muscle spasms sometimes caused by an underdeveloped nervous system.” Ms. Turner relied on the help of her mother and Clark County Social Services after the birth of her son so that she could continue to care for her son and maintain her monthly housing expenses. However, her unpaid traffic tickets remained a problem during this difficult time. Nevada is one of thirteen states that treat traffic violations as criminal infractions. When she missed a payment, Ms. Turner called the court to explain her extenuating circumstances, but she was “told she would either have to attend court or turn herself in.”

Your Honor, Mr. Jones will come back to court. He’s lived in the same apartment with his family for years, works part-time, and is putting himself through school. He is not a flight risk. I ask that you release him and allow him to return to court on his own recognizance. 

In five years as a public defender in the Bronx, I gave that pitch — or a variation of it — hundreds of times, trying to convince judges not to set bail on people I represented. The arraignment courtroom, where people were first brought within twenty-four hours of an arrest, was nothing short of chaos. Within minutes of meeting a client, based on whatever little information I could gather in short order, I would appear in front of a judge to make a case for release. Sometimes I had strong facts on my side, such as a mother or family member in the courtroom to demonstrate that this person had ties to the community and wasn’t a flight risk. Other times, especially in cases where the person was homeless, or had multiple prior arrests, I had a lot less to work with.

“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.

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

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