A report issued by the Vera Institute of Justice details “the damaging long-term effects that pretrial detention has on detained people, as well as why it actually causes more damage than good to the overall results of the criminal justice system.” The report, Justice Denied: The Harmful and Lasting Effects of Pretrial Detention that the institute was commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. While pretrial detention is aimed at increasing the likelihood that people will appear for court hearings and reduce the risk of harm to the community, research indicates that pretrial detention results in worse outcomes, including longer sentences, increased recidivism, and increased rates of failure to appear in court, the report contends.
Among its main findings: The application of pretrial detention can be influenced by characteristics of defendants, including race and socioeconomic status. Those who are detained after arrest are more likely to be convicted and to receive harsher sentences than those who are not. Even short periods of detention may increase the likelihood that a person will be back in the criminal justice system again in the future. Between 1990 and 2009, the percentage of pretrial releases that involved financial conditions in felony cases in the largest urban counties increased from 37 percent to 61 percent. Most of the rise was due to greater use of commercial surety bonds posted by a for-profit bail bond company. Although judicial officers release women at higher rates than men and set lower bail amounts for them, women are less likely to be able to afford bail when it is set.