Bail practices became the target of reform efforts during the 1960's and 1970's not only because of issues concerning economic bias against indigent defendants but also because of criticism of the bail decision itself. Questions were raised about the appropriate uses of bail (e.g., to prevent flight or pretrial crime, or to inflict pretrial punishment), the rationality of the criteria relied on by judges in deciding bail, and the discretionary allocation of pretrial detention through high cash bail. In this article, case law and statutes governing bail practices in the United States are reviewed first to characterize the ambiguous legal framework from within which bail judges must operate. Then bail decisions in a large urban jurisdiction are analyzed as a case study to discover the factors most influential in determining pretrial release options. It is inferred that, even after years of reform, community-ties measures do not play a major role in the bail decision or the determination of pretrial custody; rather, the nature of the charged offense appears most influential. A finding of special significance is that a large proportion of these decisions could not be explained systematically (i.e., a large share of variance remained unexplained). The article concludes by suggesting a guidelines approach to bail that could narrow disparity in bail options and the use of detention, enhance the rationality of the decision process and contribute to more equitable pretrial practices.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
American Bar Association.Standards relating to criminal justice. Chicago: Author, 1968.
Ares, C., Rankin, A. & Sturz, H., The Manhattan bail project: An interim report on the use of pretrial parole.New York University Law Review, 1963,38, 67–95.
Beeley, A.The bail system in Chicago, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927.
Bock, E., & Frazier, C., Official standards versus actual criteria in bond dispositions.Journal of Criminal Justice, 1977,5, 321–328.
Ebbesen, E., & Konecni, V. Decision-making and information integration in the courts: The setting of bail.Journal of Peroonality and Social Psychology, 1975,32, 805–821.
Feeley, M., & McNaughton J.The pretrial process in the sixth circuit: A qualitative and legal analysis, 1974. (Mimeo)
Foote, C. Compelling appearance in court: Administration of bail in Philadelphia.University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1954,102, 1031–1079.
Goldkamp, J. S.Bail decision-making and the role of pretrial detention in American justice. Ph.D. Dissertation, State University of New York at Albany, 1977.
Goldkamp, J. S.,Two classes of accused, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger, 1979.
Gottfredson, M. An empirical analysis of pretrial release decisions.Journal of Criminal Justice, 1974,2, 287–303.
Gottfredson, D., Hoffman, P., Sigler, M., & Wilkins, L. Making paroling policy explicit.Crime and Delinquency, 1975,21, 34–44.
Gottfredson, D., Wilkins, L., & Hoffman, P.Guidelines for parole and sentencing: A policy control method. Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath, 1978.
Kerlinger, F., & Pedhazur, E.,Multiple regression in behavioral research. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1973.
Landes, W. Legality and reality: Some evidence on criminal proceedings.Journal of Legal Studies, 1974,3, 287–337.
Morris, N.The future of imprisonment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.
Morse, W., & Beattie, R.,Survey of the administration of criminal justice in Oregon. New York: Arno Press, 1974. (Original edition, 1973.
National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals.Reports. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973.
National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies.Performance standards and goals. Washington., D.C.: Author, 1977.
Schaffer, A.Bail and parole jumping in Manhattan in 1967 New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 1970.
Wilkins, L., Kress, J., Gottfredson, D., Calpin, J., & Gelman, A.,Sentencing guidelines: Structuring judicial discretion. Albany, New York: Criminal Justice Research Center, 1976.
About this article
Cite this article
Goldkamp, J.S., Gottfredson, M.R. Bail decision making and pretrial detention. Law Hum Behav 3, 227–249 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01039804
- Decision Making
- Decision Process
- Social Psychology
- Special Significance
- Large Share