Bail and Pretrial Detention

In my previous post, I focused on the issue of implementing alternatives to incarceration in order to reduce overcrowding in prisons, excessive costs, and recidivism rates. Today, I will discuss the issue of how bail leads to an increase in pretrial detention.

Pretrial detention is the detaining of an accused person before the actual trial has taken place. The most common use of this type of detention is if the accused defendant cannot afford to pay bail. In extreme cases, pretrial detention is used in order to protect witnesses, jurors, and the general public from the accused person. Because pretrial detainees have not been convicted of a crime, they are not guilty under the laws of the constitution. However, pretrial detainees are often thrown in jail and treated similarly to convicted prisoners. Pretrial detainees have to suffer through these jail conditions for months until their trials.

This video by John Oliver explains the issue of bail and how it leads to pretrial detention:

The major criticism of bail and pretrial detention is that defendants become much more likely to plead guilty if the chance of acquittal is low or if the expected sentence on a plea bargain is less than the amount of jail time that would be served through pretrial. Another major criticism is that the bail system favors people who can afford to pay bail over people who cannot. This does not treat people equally under the law and questions fundamental rights because it punishes accused people before they are officially convicted under trial.

What do you think about bail and pretrial detention? Do you support  pretrial service programs that evaluate each accused person and determine risk, or are there other solutions?


2 thoughts on “Bail and Pretrial Detention”

  1. Honestly, I think that the idea of the system that we have is pretty good. If a person is considered a danger to the rest of society, shouldn’t they be held until they are proven guilty or innocent? I realize that if a person is held in jail when they are innocent, it is very unfortunate and shows a problem in our system. But, what if that person was guilty of murder or something like that? Wouldn’t you agree they should be held in jail? Sometimes the phrase, “better safe than sorry” just has to be used.
    I think that our system now works, but the judiciary system needs to put an emphasis on speeding up the amount of time it takes someone to get a trial.


  2. Thanks for the comment! Yes, I agree with you that if a person is considered a danger to society, he or she should be held in prison until their trial. However, I think the problem lies in the fact that courts are also using this to put people accused of minor crimes in jail if they cannot pay bail. People who are accused of committing minor crimes and who are not a danger to society should not receive the same punishment and have to go to jail. I think having pretrial service programs to evaluate the risk of an accused person being a danger to society is a better way to decide whether someone should go to jail or not if they cannot pay bail before going to court.
    Speeding up the amount of time it takes an accused person to go on trial is an entirely different issue and involves a significant decrease in protection with public defenders. People who can afford lawyers typically have a significantly higher quality of protection under the law than people who cannot afford lawyers and are instead represented by public defenders.


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