At last count, there were 47,000 Philadelphia fugitives on the loose, says the Philadelphia Inquirer in the third of a series on problems in the city’s court system. In a crisis that has been brewing for decades, defendants are thumbing their noses at judges and victims, given a free pass by the system’s ineffectual bail program – and skipping court in huge numbers. Deputy District Attorney John Delaney Jr., one of the city’s top prosecutors, says, “The bail system is a complete cartoon.”
When defendants skip court, old victims are victimized again and fresh ones are created as fugitives commit more crimes. For some fugitives, ducking out on court is a tactical step that wears down witnesses and helps set the stage for the eventual collapse of their cases. “You think you’re going to jail, you just run,” said a convicted robber. “They catch you a year or two later, the case falls apart. Any witness they have, they don’t have time for it. They got a life.  They just don’t want the hassle. That’s a known fact.” The bail system is deeply flawed. Under the city’s government-run 10 percent “deposit bail” program, thousands of accused criminals are blowing off court – and officials have abdicated the job of demanding the remaining bail they owe. Fugitives owe taxpayers a whopping $1 billion in forfeited bail.