Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform
Date:  10-14-2016

Harvard's Criminal Justice Policy Program finds bail reform presents a historic challenge - and also an opportunity
From Larry Schwartztol, Executive Director, Criminal Justice Policy Program, Harvard University:

America’s bail system is at a crossroads. Secured money bail has been shown to trigger a host of negative consequences: it leads to unnecessary detention, discriminates against poor people, and can exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Jailing pretrial defendants based on their inability to pay bail can cause individuals to lose their jobs, housing, or child custody, and it can have adverse effects on their criminal cases. At the same time, it is a poor tool for promoting good pretrial outcomes – money bail has not been shown to effectively ensure a defendant’s appearance at trial, and it is not an appropriate or well-tailored mechanism for protecting community safety.

Momentum is building to rethink the role of money bail. Advocates across the country have pushed to limit money bail or replace it altogether with alternative approaches that avoid the harmful consequences associated with a money-based system.

Moving Beyond Money helps to chart a path forward. It provides guidance on how to structure pretrial decision-making in a way that preserves the integrity of the judicial process and protects public safety while also ensuring fairness, transparency, and efficiency. It outlines some basic steps that jurisdictions can take to mitigate the harmful effects of money bail where it remains in place. It also provides substantial guidance on reform strategies for eliminating money bail altogether. It devotes significant attention to reforms based on “risk-based” approaches to bail, discussing in detail the policy and legal considerations surrounding pretrial supervision, actuarial risk assessment, and preventive detention. Rather than prescribe a uniform approach for all jurisdictions, it seeks to help stakeholders navigate some of the complex questions that arise in this area.

We are pleased to release this resource and hope it contributes to the vital work occurring around the country right now to determine the future of bail. Please help us spread the word.

Read Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform here.