Bail reform sweeps the nation, pretrial release services on rise

Bail reform is sweeping the nation, state by state, as correctional agencies look to change a money-based method for releasing pretrial defendants to the community while they await trial. The movement is fueled by the belief that bail is neither fair nor does it protect public safety. Proponents for reform believe the money-based method for releasing pretrial defendants is unjust as it favors those of financial means for release while not fully accounting for the risk of individuals who can post bail.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 99 percent of the growth in jails over the last 15 years has been a result of increases in the pretrial population. By releasing individuals into the community while under different levels of supervision, jails will be able to address their overcrowding situation and at the same time ease the financial burden of pretrial detention, according to proponents of the changes. States are addressing bail reform in several ways as they begin to realize the impact cash-based bail systems have on their communities. For example, 85 percent of defendants in New York City still could not afford to post bail even when it was set at a relatively low dollar amount.

And while there are many states already curtailing the use of cash bail, including New Jersey, New Mexico and Kentucky, one state just recently became the first to completely abolish cash bail: California. The California Bail Reform Act, otherwise known as SB 10, will change the current money-based bail system to a risk-based pretrial release system, with defendants being classified as low, medium or high risk. Under SB 10, most individuals will be released within 12 to 24 hours of being detained. These people will be conditionally released dependent upon specific criteria such as the seriousness of their alleged crime, if they are deemed a flight risk and their likelihood of recidivism. SB 10 was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brown, taking effect in October 2019.

For more news about bail reform, head to the Prison Policy Initiative for a consortium of information about this issue and how states and counties are addressing it.

GEO Reentry and BI Incorporated are working closely with community corrections agencies, including pretrial service agencies that are being formed, to provide supportive services that include electronic monitoring and day reporting services to help individuals remain compliant to conditions of release and appear at court appearances as intended.