Changing the bail system: What some US cities are trying

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2015 5:13 PM
Changing the bail system: What some US cities are trying

Thousands of people languish in overcrowded jails nationwide because they can't afford bail, putting further pressure on an already strained system. Philadelphia is seeking ways to fix the problem. Here's what some other cities are doing:

— In New York, officials announced in July the city would eliminate cash bail for thousands of low-risk defendants, instead requiring they be monitored while they wait for trial. The decision followed a series of high-profile deaths of people held at the Rikers Island jail complex, some of whom were in custody on minor charges but couldn't afford bail.

— In Washington, largely viewed as a model, 85 percent of all people arrested are released while awaiting trial. The jurisdiction is the only one in the country where money bonds are illegal. Proponents of the system argue their approach focuses on risk, not a defendant's ability to pay for their freedom.

— In Cook County, which includes Chicago, an increase in electronic monitoring and the number of people released without bail resulted in a 17 percent decline in the prison population between June 2013 and March 2015, according to the MacArthur Foundation.

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The story corrects erroneous implication that New York inmates died because they couldn't pay their bail.