For the first time in nearly two decades, the Philadelphia court system has launched an overhaul of how it decides which criminal defendants to release and which to jail before trial, reports the city’s Inquirer. The initiative is the latest effort to get a grip on Philadelphia’s persistent problem of suspects ducking out of court, leaving victims and witnesses in the lurch.
In 1982, Philadelphia’s became the nation’s first court system to adopt bail guidelines to make sure defendants were treated uniformly. But the guidelines were last updated in 1995, and court magistrates who set bail have routinely ignored them – and the system’s fugitive problem has mushroomed. The reforms include a recommendation that bail amounts – determined by magistrates – be hiked by 50 percent to catch up with inflation since 1995.