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?