One the key tenets of the bail bond system is that a monetary incentive will result in better appearance rates at trial. This has been shown to be true by various reports, most notably a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report that showed this trend definitively. But in all the noise surrounding the “bail reform” that is occurring throughout the U.S., some of the simplest, most effective answers are getting lost.
A simple program in Boston uses ubiquitous technology to let people know it’s time to show up for their trials. The result? A reduction in failures to appear (FTAs). The Boston Globe story referenced indicates that almost 20% of those charged with a felony fail to appear for court dates, and those charged with lesser crimes and misdemeanors have even higher FTA rates.
Text message reminders are used frequently within private industry to reduce missed appointments and wasted time and money. Perhaps a bit late (but better late than never), the court systems in some jurisdictions are jumping on board to use this simple technology to make real improvements to the criminal justice system – all without increasing bail amounts, doing away with money bail, or investing in high-end technology. It’s a nice reminder that, occasionally, a very smart but very simple solution is implemented to effect positive change – a story that gets lost in the vitriol of the bail reform movement.