New York Pretrial Data Demonstrates That Requiring Bail Does In Fact Better Protect Public Safety

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In New York City, as a result of a bail reform, there are a large group of cases where judges are unable to impose bail and thus the defendants are now released on their own recognizance and are then supervised by the city pretrial services program.  This is called “non-monetary release” or “supervised release.”

Elizabeth Glazer, the former Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice suggested that the risk of “supervised release defendants are similar to defendants for whom bail is set.”  In other words, comparing the results of both groups would help us understand the outcomes.  At the time of bail reform, Glazer forecasted that the outcomes would be the same.

Instead, those posting a bail bond dramatically outperformed those of similar risk who were released on their own recognizance and then supervised.  In fact, the new crime rate of those supervised without bail was 40%.  Of those released on bail, 19%.[1]  In other words, those released on non-monetary supervised release are more than twice as likely to commit a new crime as their counterparts released on a monetary bail.  Thus, if judges were to go back to imposing bail in such cases, the result would be an immediate 21% drop in total pretrial crime in similar high-risk defendants.

In the New York data, for every charge group of rearrests released on non-monetary release was always far worse than release on bail.  Percentage of those released on own recognizance typically is very similar to release on bail, which is similar to national data.  This would suggest that judges do a good job of sorting into risk categories.  What is astounding here is that wholesale shift away from bail to non-monetary supervised release of the similar risk of defendants (those who would have otherwise had a bail imposed were it not for bail reform) has had such devastating and clear negative public safety impacts.

So, when it is suggested that bail doesn’t protect public safety, it is important to realize two things: (1) when someone does not post bail, they remain in jail pending trial, which means they don’t commit a new pretrial crime; or, (2) when they are released, while clearly all crimes cannot be prevented, when similar risk defendants are released on a surety bond as opposed to being supervised on their own recognizance, they are less than half as likely to commit a new crime.

[1] https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/1/9/22875181/bail-reform-release-program-participants-rearrested

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