Judges in Wake County, N.C., want magistrates to justify misdemeanor bail above recommended amounts after research found the figure is often set high, especially for blacks. People charged with offenses that don’t always carry a jail sentences sit behind bars when they can’t make bail, the county’s public defender said.
The study by Johanna Foster, a former University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate student, found that misdemeanor suspects had average bail of $1,303 — above the $100 to $1,000 range recommended in the county’s Pretrial Release and Bail Bond Policy. Foster’s study indicated that race was one of the most significant factors in setting bail amounts, with whites getting bail averaging $963 while blacks received bail averaging $1,199. “Race is absolutely not supposed to be an issue or a factor that affects a bond,” said Chief District Judge Robert Rader. The magistrates were ordered to write down their reasoning when they depart from the recommended amounts.