The Defender Association has a plan to re-imagine Philadelphia’s pretrial system that prioritizes community involvement over cash bail – without using a risk assessment.
Philadelphia’s chief public defender, Keir Bradford-Grey, has pitched the FJD, the District Attorney and City Council on an entirely different proposal: a way to eliminate money bail in Philadelphia without using a risk-assessment tool. Under this process, most defendants charged with misdemeanors would be arrested but, instead of going through a bail hearing, would receive a summons to appear in court. According to Bradford-Grey, Philadelphia is the only county in the state that does not already use the summons process for lower-level offenses.
Those held on more serious charges would go before a magistrate for a preliminary arraignment hearing where money bail would not even be on the table. Instead, the magistrate could decide to release the defendant on his own recognizance or impose other conditions, perhaps phone reporting or electronic monitoring. Only in cases where the defendant is a flight risk or a perceived danger to the community would the District Attorney file a detention motion — which would result in a release-determination hearing, where a judge could decide to detain the defendant or to set high bail.
“This system allows for individualized determinations and ends the practice of incarcerating people simply because they cannot afford bail,” Bradford-Grey said in her testimony to City Council.