The problem of the lack of places in prisons is topical for the US. One of the ways for the local government to tackle this issue is the implementation of the bail reform on January 1, 2020. This reform eliminates the bail for people charged with non-violent offenses waiting for a trial in jail. This way, the purpose of this policy is to make the justice system fairer and more equal because most of the detained people cannot afford to pay the bail. The present essay argues that the bail reform will help decrease pretrial detention rates and reduce the extent of economic, social, and racial disparities in the justice system.
To begin with, it is necessary to describe which felonies are regarded as non-violent and eligible for cash bail. These offenses include involuntary manslaughter, vehicular assault, sex trafficking, and domestic violence crime, to name but a few (Rempel & Rodriguez, 2020). Even though these offenses are categorized as misdemeanors and non-violent crimes, they still pose a danger to society. Therefore, the primary purpose of the pretrial system is to prevent the occurrence of other crimes before the trial and ensure that an accused person would not escape the trial (Stevenson & Mayson, 2017).
From this, it could be inferred that the price of the reform is the safety of society. At the same time, it should be noted that the bail reform does not cancel trial per se and that before the reform, the charged individuals who had money could pay the cash bail. Hence, the implementation of the new reform does not pose any significant risks to the safety of local citizens. This is because the reform simply eliminates the difference between people who have money to pay the bail and those who do not.
The implementation of the bail reform will have a strong positive effect not only on the equality of the judicial system but also on its impartiality. More precisely, the study conducted by Gupta, Hansman, and Frenchman (2016) reveals that “the assignment of money bail leads to a 12 percent increase in the likelihood of conviction and a 6–9 percent increase in recidivism” (p. 471). What is more, the pretrial jail beds cost $14 billion per annum to the government (Stevenson & Mayson, 2017). This way, the implementation of the bail reform would allow allocating a significant share of these costs to other elements of the judiciary system such as, for example, correction works.
Another argument on why the bail reform will reduce prison overcrowding is that there is a correlation between pretrial detention and the commitment of the following crimes. Several scholars cited in the paper of Stevenson and Mayson (2017) reveal the existence of this strong correlation. Mitigating prison overcrowding will help eliminate some part of the financial burden from the taxpayers whose money is spent on keeping criminals in jail.
To conclude, it is expected that the bail reform will positively affect the prisons in New York and will reduce a significant share of pretrial detentions. However, the cash bail reform provokes certain concerns and should be further considered. The reform does not provide any means to guarantee the absence of repeated offenses for the defenders who are released from pretrial detention and wait for the trial. Nonetheless, if to omit this problem, the judiciary system will become fairer after the bail reform.
Gupta, A., Hansman, C., & Frenchman, E. (2016). The heavy costs of high bail: Evidence from judge randomization. The Journal of Legal Studies, 45(2), 471-505. Web.
Rempel, M. & Rodriguez, K. (2020). Bail reform revisited: The Impact of New York’s amended bail law on pretrial detention. Center for Court Innovation. Web.
Stevenson, M., & Mayson, S. G. (2017). Bail reform: New directions for pretrial detention and release. Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law, 1-22. Web.