Bail or Jail: Lawmakers in More Than Two Dozen States Are Changing the Rules on Bail

By Williams, Richard | State Legislatures, May 2012 | Go to article overview

Bail or Jail: Lawmakers in More Than Two Dozen States Are Changing the Rules on Bail


Williams, Richard, State Legislatures


Most of the people sitting in local jails have not been convicted of a crime. Instead, they're awaiting trial and can't afford bail.

In fact, 60 percent of jail inmates are awaiting disposition of their cases, not serving time for a conviction, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Three-fourths of these people are accused of property, drug or other nonviolent offenses. Although many are not considered a danger to the public or a flight risk, locking them up contributes substantially to the $9 billion local governments spend every year on jails.

There's a high cost to defendants, too. The time they spend in jail can cost them their jobs, prevent them from supporting their families and keep them from dealing with matters that might help their case. Defendants out on bail who have a job, are connected with their families and aren't abusing drugs or alcohol are more likely to show up in court, according to experts in the field.

Determining Release

Bail is the basic right for most defendants to be released prior to trial. Conditions for bail are set by a judge to reasonably ensure public safety and the person's return to court. They can include posting the full bail amount, using property as collateral or signing a written agreement to appear, referred to as release on your own recognizance. Judges also can order nonfinancial conditions, such as drug testing.

In localities with a pretrial services program, defendants are subject to supervision while they await trial or disposition of their case.

In 2011, at least 28 states enacted 73 bills addressing bail policy. The bulk of these laws seek to improve the effectiveness of commercial bond and pretrial services programs.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"We need to do a better job of distinguishing people who are suitable for release," says Representative John Tilley (D) of Kentucky. "We don't want people sitting in jails only because they cannot afford their financial bail."

Tilley chairs the House Judiciary Committee and co-sponsored pretrial reforms there last year.

Improving Pretrial Services

In 2011, Kentucky lawmakers set out to improve their pretrial system by determining who would be best-suited for release. (Kentucky is one of only four states--the others are Illinois, Oregon and Wisconsin--without commercial bail.) They changed pretrial release by requiring risk assessments and improving pretrial supervision. The reforms emphasized alternatives to jail for defendants who are not dangerous or a flight risk, who have substance abuse or mental health needs, or who are unable to pay their bail fee.

Defendants now undergo a pretrial risk assessment that considers factors linked to pretrial appearance rates and successful reentry into the community, such as employment status, family ties and avoiding substance use. Those determined to be low or moderate risk to the public or alleged victims, and who are likely to appear for court, are released on their own recognizance. For some moderate-risk defendants, courts impose conditions, such as drug testing or GPS monitoring.

Defendants who remain in jail before trial because they can't pay bail receive a $100 credit toward their bond every day, allowing them to earn their release over time. High-risk offenders who must pay a bond to get out are not eligible.

The Kentucky law improves the supervision of those on probation, parole and in pretrial programs, and reinvests the savings from housing fewer inmates to community programs that supervise both defendants and convicted offenders. The law also requires better record keeping of appearance rates and new crimes by pretrial defendants.

"The end goal is clear," says Kentucky Senator Tom Jensen (R), referring to the state's package of recent reforms. "We want more cost-effective ways to hold offenders accountable while improving public safety.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bail or Jail: Lawmakers in More Than Two Dozen States Are Changing the Rules on Bail
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.