Theory Post – Pretrial Services Programs

In my previous posts, I discussed various political views on the issue of defendants’ legal rights in court. Some groups believe that defendants, especially those who cannot afford to pay for legal services, are not given enough rights in court. These groups want reforms that increase the rights of defendants because the current system violates many rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Other groups say that states do not have enough money to set up new programs to expand the rights of defendants. States already have to charge defendants court fees in order to finance their courts.

In order to solve this deeply divided issue, there must be a compromise between both sides in which small increases in defendants’ rights are made without spending large amounts of money. The first issue that should be addressed is if a person cannot afford to pay bail. The compromise that can be used to solve this problem is the implementation of pretrial services programs, which can be used to investigate the arrested individual to see if he or she is at risk of fleeing from trial or dangerous to the general public. According to Court & Community, these investigations are used as recommendations to a judge who decides whether the accused person can be sent home, needs to be monitored and supervised, or should be sent to jail. The National Institute of Justice suggests that pretrial services programs “can minimize unnecessary pretrial detention, reduce jail crowding, increase public safety, ensure that released defendants appear for scheduled court events, and lessen invidious discrimination between rich and poor.” The implementation of pretrial services programs benefit groups that want to increase defendants’ rights because it mostly eliminates the issue of excessive bail stated in the Eighth Amendment because investigations by pretrial services officers can allow people accused with minor crimes to be sent home without having to pay bail if they pose little risk. It also helps the groups that want to limit spending because pretrial services programs will reduce overcrowding in jails. This decrease in costs will also allow courts to decrease the amount of court fees they charge defendants. Another solution is to administer electronic monitoring systems. The Yale Law Journal suggests that electronic monitoring reduces fugitive rates by allowing the defendant to be easily located. It also can reduce state government expenditures by reducing the number of defendants that have to be detained.

 

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