Philadelphia Leads The Way With Bail Reform


The Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously on Thursday in favor of a resolution that would require the District Attorney for the city to work with other city officials to find an alternative to using ‘money-bail’ to avoid pre-trial detainment.

Councilman Curtis Jones spoke on the matter two days before the vote calling the present bail system used in the country a ‘medieval tool’ that is in desperate need of a complete overhaul.

Jones also spoke about the effect this system of cash bail affects lower-income individuals and points out that many times poorer Americans will plead guilty to crimes simply to avoid the jail time that would result from being financially unable to post bail. The numbers seem to support Jones assertion as the bail factor has been shown to increase conviction rates by 12% and recidivism rates by 9%.

Nationwide 62% of individuals being held in jails are presently awaiting trial and more often than not these crimes are misdemeanors or other non-serious offenses. In the city of Philadelphia one-third of individuals detained in the city’s jail are incarcerated for no other reason than they are unable to come up with money for bail.

Alan Butkovitz, City Controller for Philadelphia, stated in a report released last October that the city would save $75 million annually by dismantling the system of cash bail.

The amount that individuals must pay to secure a release from jail on bail has doubled over the last twenty years from an average of $25,400 to $55,400. This is especially problematic when a study performed at the Brookings Institution is taken into account. In the study, it was demonstrated that one in four American families would be unable to handle an emergency costing $2000 without the use of a loan service.

The city of Philadelphia has reported that half of the defendants in the city’s court system are unable to post a bail of $5000. For this reason, the bail bonds industry is adamantly against plans of eliminating the cash bail system.

Philadelphians that are in favor of bail reform are hopeful that new District Attorney Larry Krasner will prove to be a committed ally. Krasner, who is an accomplished civil rights attorney has publicly expressed that he would like to end bail for non-violent criminal offenses. He has also made himself available for regular meetings with a Philadelphia area group that is focused on prison reform.