In its first year, New Jersey’s historic bail overhaul slashed the number of people charged with minor crimes locked up until trial because they couldn’t post bail by 20 percent. Yet the system is “simply not sustainable” because it relies on court fees rather than the state budget, a report from the New Jersey judiciary says.
If you are released ahead of your trial date, you’re 14 percent less likely to be found guilty, according to an American Economic Review study. Compared to those who can’t make bail and are held in pretrial detention, your economic outlook is better too, researchers concluded in a study of court records in Philadelphia and Miami-Dade counties.
Leaders of the campaign to close New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail are celebrating the announcement that one of the facility’s nine detention centers will be closed this year. But they said that fundamental justice change requires reform of the money bail system.
The sentencing overhaul championed by Gov. Bruce Rauner has already cut inmate numbers by 7,000. But reforms at the county level, influencing who goes to prison in the first place, have been a critical ingredient in the state’s success—and could be a model for jurisdictions elsewhere.
Critics charge that despite claims of objectivity, algorithms reproduce existing biases, disproportionately targeting people by class, race, and gender. Reformers say another New York City bill, the Right to Know Act, doesn’t go far enough.
Early evidence suggests some risk assessment tools offer promise in rationalizing decisions on granting bail without racial bias. But we still need to monitor how judges actually use the algorithms, says a Boston attorney.
Some worry that a risk-assessment tool under development could predict recidivism by weighing factors that serve as a proxy for race and socioeconomic status, ultimately incarcerating more black and brown defendants while allowing white defendants to go free.
A New York City experiment that used partially secured and unsecured bonds suggests that these are viable alternatives to a system that puts thousands of individuals behind bars awaiting trial because they can’t afford to make bail, according to a September 15 report by the Vera Institute of Justice.
In Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” criminals could be identified before they committed a crime. Computer-generated risk algorithms used by courts to determine whether individuals should be released ahead of trial have brought us a step closer to that world–and our challenge is to use them responsibly, says a George Mason University professor.