BJS Says It Didn’t Endorse Commercial Bail Bonds


The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics says data in its series on how felony defendants are processed in courts are not sufficent to explain the “efficacy of one form of pretrial release over another.” BJS issued a “data advisory” last week after the American Bail Coalition, in testimony January 19 before a U.S. Senate subcommittee chaired by Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), asserted that “in terms of release pending trial, commercial bail has the imprimatur of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics as the most effective method.” The coalition, an association of 13 bail insurance companies, declared that, “commercial bail brings to court more defendants (who commit less crimes while out) than any other method.

Bail companies, in another publication titled “Taxpayer Funded Pretrial Release: A Failed System,” said that a BJS report on the nation’s 75 most populous counties found that failure to appear in court on unsecured releases were twice as high as those on surety bonds. In its new advisory, BJS says that “to understand whether one form of pretrial release is more effective than others, it would be necessary to collect information relevant to the pretrial release decision and factors associated with individual misconduct,” including defendants' community ties, employment status, income, educational background, drug abuse history, and mental health status. BJS does not now collect those data.

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