Bail Vs. Pretrial Release
A trend has been occurring over the past 20+ years. This trend has been occurring in every state throughout America. What is this trend? It is called various names but most commonly it is called “”Pretrial Release”". Our nation’s “”Justice System”" has contained “”bail”" as an integral part since inception. Reasonable bail is addressed even in our Constitution.
When someone is arrested and booked into a county jail or a local police department jail, the charge or charges are formalized and bail is set. In most counties, the Presiding Judge in concert with other judges annually review and adjust the bail amount for each offense specified by statute other than capital offenses. By creating and maintaining a “”bail schedule”", judges are not needed to set bail for each arrest. This is helpful, especially after hours and on weekends, to quickly set an arrestee’s bail so they can bail out. Once bail is posted, the arrestee is released with a court date to appear and a financial reason to appear. In the case of an arrestee buying and posting a bail bond, the financial reason goes to the bondsman to ensure that the arrestee appears in court when ordered to do so.
The newcomer, Pretrial Release, in effect does away with bail. How Pretrial Release works is that there are government workers on duty 24 hours a day in a county. They may be located at the county jail or at a separate government office complex. When an arrestee is booked into jail, the Pretrial Release government workers review the file. They are supposed to look into the person’s prior criminal record, local family ties, employment, etc. The goal is to determine if the arrestee is not a “”flight risk”" and to authorize the arrestee’s release on his or her own recognizance. That simply means the arrestee’s promise to appear. There is no financial incentive (neither cash bail nor a bail bond) for the arrestee to appear. Of course, the government union worker at Pretrial Release is not held accountable for the appearance either.
The most often given reason for the existence of Pretrial Release is to help reduce jail overcrowding. However, at what cost? The failure to appear rate is higher for Pretrial Release than for those released on bail (cash and bail bond). Also, consider this: arrestees released on bail (cash or bail bond) costs the county nothing. It is essentially a user paid system that includes an incentive to appear in court. Pretrial Release costs the taxpayers and has virtually no incentive for the arrestee to appear. In all cases the Pretrial Release staff are government workers and in most cases, government union workers. Their pay and benefits add up on the taxpayer’s tab. The money freed up by doing away with the cost of Pretrial Release would be better served in supporting the jail law enforcement staff and even used to add jail capacity if needed.
Another problem with Pretrial Release is the effect it has on due process. In addition to a mere promise to appear, many arrestee’s are required to take drugs tests and/or attend counseling with all this being done before trial. What about the concept of innocent until proven guilty? In effect, the conditions imposed by Pretrial Release are tantamount to pretrial probation which violates due process.
Over the past 20+ years Pretrial Release has spread throughout the country. Laudable reasons are given by politicians and advocates but the underlying truth is that government worker unions like to grow. Now you know the “”dirty little secret”". Please remember, Bail is user paid and Pretrial Release is taxpayer paid.