Pretrial Roadmap: 2023

Pretrial Roadmap 2023


The issue pertaining to the time-period between arrest and trial in the criminal justice system has long been debated.  The stakes could be no higher when balancing the rights of the People, victims of crime, and the safety of communities along with the right to bail and presumption of innocence of those accused of crimes.  The function of bail and personal surety exists to allow defendants a pathway to pretrial release while guaranteeing their appearance in court to answer to charges filed against them.

As an expert in pretrial justice and bail reform, over the past few months of traveling this great country I have been asked two key questions.  One, how did we get here with this bail reform mess?  Two, more importantly, what do we do about the problem of increasing crimes while on bail while not disturbing the important constitutional right to bail?

This document and the attached simple model policies can be used to respond to what is a now a crisis in our system – in part due to the unraveling of judicial discretion by legislative edict and the premise that we can simply ignore individual consideration in pretrial release decision-making and move to a mandate of zero bail for selected charges.  Instead, what is needed is to direct the system to focus the requirements of pretrial security (i.e., bail and conditions of release) on those who are proven recidivists (i.e., lengthy record of crimes and crimes while on bail and having previously failed to show up for court).

These model policies are:

  1. Legislation to Restrict Eligibility of Personal Recognizance
  2. Public Safety Report Requirement
  3. Public Safety Data Collection and Accountability
  4. Legislation to Regulate “Bail Disruptors” and Bail Funds
  5. Public Safety and Judicial Accountability Act of 2023

Sheriffs, judges, legislators, and public officials are all going to have to work together this time around to stop this massive crime-wave now emboldening repeat criminals.  Unfortunately, in our quest for pretrial justice for the indigent, we have gone too far, giving repeat offenders an easier system within which to operate by continuing revictimization of the community.

The constitutional right to bail has survived these debates before and is most certainly a flexible enough concept to meet the challenge.  “End money bail” is a knee-jerk reaction to the problems of the system that has cost communities enough, and if the “deny bail altogether” trend continues we’ll end up in an unfortunately harsh and unnecessary period of over-jailing.  Indeed, this country has proven that it can find low-crime cities with the strong rights to bail, liberty and justice for all firmly in place.

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