The Defender Association of Philadelphia continues to call for an end to our local systems’ reliance on the use of monetary conditions of bail as a detention tool.

Our plan, originally agreed to by the District Attorney Office and presented to the courts in 2018endorses the development and implementation of a transparent process for courts to make individualized decisions about who can be safely released into the community and who must be detained pretrial to protect public safety.

The systemic use of monetary conditions of bail results in unnecessary and racially disproportionate detention of people who could, but for their poverty, be safely released to the community. It also permits those with access to wealth, who pose extraordinary risks to public safety, to buy their freedom. This system has a devastating impact on our clients, the victims of crimes, and the communities in which they reside. 

Unnecessary pretrial detention is correlated not only with harmful case outcomes but also long-term impacts on community safety. Moreover, These burdens have not historically and are not now evenly borne.

If not Cash Bail, then What?

The reliance on financial conditions of release is both misplaced and unnecessary because our rules of Criminal Procedure, and federal and state constitution provide a better way–one that properly balances a presumptively innocent person’s right to liberty against the possibility that the person’s pretrial release might pose a real threat to community safety.

Our plan achieves that balance by:

  • Creating a presumption that pretrial release is the norm;
  • Limiting the types of offenses for which the DAO can seek pretrial detention to those crimes that reflect a real danger to an individual or the community;
  • Requiring that any pretrial condition of release imposed by the court is narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means to provide a reasonable assurance that the person will appear in court as directed and remain law-abiding if released;
  • Compelling the courts to hold a hearing with adequate procedural safeguards before detaining someone.