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Bail Reform in the United States: The What, Why, and How of Third Wave Efforts

Abstract

Bail is the practice of using money or property as an assurance that a person charged with a criminal offense will return for their scheduled court dates and not engage in criminal activity during the pretrial period. However, there is limited evidence supporting bail as an intervention in these ways, despite the steady increase in both the use and amount of bail since the late 1980s. Instead, bail is widely criticized for emphasizing resource-based decisions that have unnecessarily increased rates of pretrial detention in the United States and have contributed to cumulative and disproportionate disadvantage for people of color and low-income people involved in the American legal system. Consequently, there is widespread agreement that bail reform is needed and, yet, what this means in policy and practice is widely contested. In this chapter, we review bail decision-making practices, their impact overall and for marginalized groups, and bail reform efforts over time, including ongoing challenges or concerns.

Keywords

  • Bail
  • Pretrial decision-making
  • Pretrial detention
  • Failure to appear
  • Pretrial risk assessment
  • Pretrial services
  • Electronic monitoring

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The role of magistrates varies by state but generally, magistrates are appointed judicial officers that serve at the discretion of elected US district court judges. Magistrates can reside over almost any type of court proceeding with a few exceptions (e.g., felony cases; Federal Judicial Center, n.d.).

  2. 2.

    Studies included here identify people as Hispanic, without providing a specific definition, likely a result of the way race/ethnicity is recorded in arrest and jail records (Eppler-Epstein et al., 2016).

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Correspondence to Sarah L. Desmarais .

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Zottola, S.A., Duhart Clarke, S.E., Desmarais, S.L. (2022). Bail Reform in the United States: The What, Why, and How of Third Wave Efforts. In: Jeglic, E., Calkins, C. (eds) Handbook of Issues in Criminal Justice Reform in the United States. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-77565-0_9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-77565-0_9

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-77564-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-77565-0

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