Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990

By Samuel Walker | Go to book overview
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3
The Two Bail Reform
Movements

Politics and Bail Reform

Nowhere is the impact of shifting political winds on criminal justice policy more evident than in the case of bail. In the space of little more than fifteen years the bail issue went through three different phases, with each change driven by a change in the political climate.

Until the early 1960s there was virtually no interest in the problems associated with bail. A national bail reform movement suddenly emerged in the 1960s, emphasizing justice for the poor and seeking to reduce pretrial detention of criminal suspects. The bail reform movement captured the attention of the White House, the Congress, the news media, and a national network of reformers and scholars. Within the space of just a few years, it stimulated dozens of innovative bail programs in local jurisdictions, the landmark federal Bail Reform Act in 1966, and bail reform laws in several states. 1

Just as this movement was reaching its peak, however, the political winds shifted. In response to rising crime rates, interest in crime control replaced concern for poor defendants. The result was a second bail reform movement, seeking preventive detention laws designed to allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed "dangerous" to the community. The shift in the national mood was marked by a 1970 preventive detention law for the District of Columbia. The second bail reform

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