Taxpayers spend $14 billion each year detaining defendants awaiting trial, most of whom would be low risks to release, contends the Pretrial Justice Institute in a new report on the costs of the bail system. About 63 percent of the nation’s jail population, or more than 450,000 people on an average day, are jailed awaiting disposition of their cases. Taxpayers spend approximately $38 million per day to jail people who are awaiting trial (63% of the total jail population, or more than 450,000 individuals on any given day). Adopting what the institute calls “commonsense policies that detain only higher risk people,” money spend unnecessarily on pretrial detention could be used for other needed government services.
The institute says that using validated, evidence-based risk assessment to guide pretrial release decisions instead of the current money bail system could produce $78 billion in savings and benefits nationally. It offered the example of Santa Clara County, Ca., which uses a pretrial risk assessment tool that saved $33 million in six months by keeping 1,400 defendants out of jail. Pretrial release costs the county between$15 and $25 per day per defendant compared with $204 per day for jail. Under its system, 95 percent of defendants appear in court and 99 percent of them do not commit new crimes when they are released without supervision, the institute says. it said that $75 million in nonrefundable bondsmen fees were collected in one year from mostly low-income people in Maryland in cases that were dropped or defendants were found not guilty.