It’s really the question that should be at the heart of the issue of whether commercial bail – also called cash bail, “financial release,” money bail, bail bonds, and others – is effective. The point of bail, after all, is to ensure the defendant’s appearance at trial. We started to take a look at the statistics behind bail reform in a recent blog post, “A Deep Dive Into the Statistics Behind Bail Reform.” That post was based largely on a report published by two statisticians with the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report is enlightening,l and reveals the following:
Compared to release on recognizance, defendants on financial release were more likely to make all scheduled court appearances. Defendants released on an unsecured bond or as part of an emergency release were most likely to have a bench warrant issued because they failed to appear in court. The probability of failing to appear in court was higher among defendants who were black or Hispanic, had an active criminal justice status at the time of arrest, or had a prior failure to appear.
Failure to Appear for Court
Who was the most likely to not show up for their court date? As it turns out, those granted an emergency release from jail had a 56% likelihood of being charged with some form of pretrial misconduct prior to their trial, and a 39% chance of not appearing for the trial. 8% of those became fugitives, according to the definition of the paper’s authors.
The second most likely to fail to appear? That would be those released on unsecured bond, followed by conditional release and recognizance. Rates of those not appearing in these three groups were 28%, 24%, and 24%, respectively. Rates of pretrial misconduct for the three groups were 42%, 37%, and 34%, respectively.
What Does This Really Mean?
Well, it seems that there is little room for interpretation. If the goal of the justice system is to ensure that defendants charged with crimes return for their trials, the worst ways of accomplishing this objective are emergency release, unsecured bonds, and releasing defendants on their recognizance. The best are surety bonds, property bonds, full cash bonds, and deposit bonds.