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Study reveals bail system unfairly affects lower income citizens

The United States Department of Justice has declared the current bail system unconstitutional, after a case in Georgia involved a man being retained in jail for six days because he could not afford the $160 bail associated with a misdemeanor charge.

A new study conducted by New York University assistant professor Arpit Gupta, Columbia University Ph.D. candidate in economics Christopher Hansman, and University of Chicago Law School student Ethan Frenchman showed that the assignment of money bail increased recidivism rate by 6-9% and conviction rates by 12% in Philadelphia.

The reasoning behind bail is that it ensures people will return for trial proceedings. However, in practice, the bail system blatantly disadvantages citizens of a lower socioeconomic status. The impacts of being in jail for the length of time between being merely accused of a crime and ever having an opportunity to a trial are detrimental. In that time, individuals are likely to form relationships with people inside the system that could be a negative influence, are prevented from going to work, are isolated from their families, etc. These factors lead to increased recidivism later. Moreover, many choose to falsely confess to crimes to avoid being retained in jails at all.

According to the researchers, “Money bail, as a source of pretrial detention, imposes significant costs on defendants. Money bail may also directly influence recidivism through the harms of pretrial incarceration imposed upon those unable to make bail, post-trial incarceration following conviction, or the stigma of conviction.”

Other studies echo these findings. For instance, New York Times Magazine reporter Nick Pinto wrote: “[The Bronx Freedom Fund bailed out nearly 200 [low-income] defendants and generated some illuminating statistics. Ninety-six percent of the fund’s clients made it to every one of their court appearances, a return rate higher even than that of people who posted their own bail. More than half of the Freedom Fund’s clients, now able to fight their cases outside jail, saw their charges completely dismissed. By comparison, defendants held on bail for the duration of their cases were convicted 92% of the time.”

Bail is just one of the many complicated factors of the criminal justice system. Austin criminal defense attorney Ian Inglis at Ian Inglis Attorney at Law has the legal experience and technical knowledge to help assist you through the process. Get in touch with him and other qualified members of our legal team by calling our offices today at (512) 472-1950.

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