The Science Behind Pretrial Services… Is it greed?

Two reports were released earlier this month: “Bail Fail: Why the U.S. Should End the Practice of Money Bail,” and “For Better or For Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice.”  A final report is scheduled for release on September 25, and will provide first-hand accounts from Baltimore, Maryland residents’ experiences with the money bail system.

Both studies suggest that for-profit money bail is a problematic policy that is especially harmful to the poor and communities of color, and call for it to be eliminated.

The truth is that the Constitution of the United States gives us the right to bail that is not excessive. The founding Fathers never dreamed that there would be those so “progressive” (socialistic)  that they would want to outlaw the unique provision of bail. Many in the progressive movement here in the U.S. advocate a replacement for bail in America. It is called pretrial services. Sounds harmless enough but it just might be the driving component behind the unprecedented incarceration rate in the U.S.  

Pretrial Services began in 1964 when Louis Schweitzer, a Russian born paper magnate and philanthropist, began the Manhattan Bail Project. The idea was to let inmates who were indigent out of jail by placing them on a pre-conviction probation, called pretrial services. Although the practice flies in the face of the presumption of innocence, the idea gained the blessing and support of Bobby Kennedy…the rest is History:

In 1972, the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies was incorporated. In 1973, the Speedy Trial Act was enacted allowing ten VERA type programs to be demonstrated around the U.S. In 1982, the Pretrial Services Act was signed into law. This act allowed for the proliferation of pretrial service agencies in every jurisdiction in the United States.

To give you an idea how devastating these programs have been to our nation, consider these facts.

In 1982, for every 100,000 people in the U.S. 139 of them were incarcerated. Twenty five years later in 2007, that number grew to 504 per 100,000 people. Currently, the U.S. has close to 2.5 million people in jail.

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