By Kelly Moran
PHILADELPHIA–– An Early Bail Review Program will be expanded on March 1, 2021, to include defendants with bails of $250,00 or less, announced District Attorney Larry Krasner this past week – the expansion is part of the city’s efforts to reduce jail population and “pre-trial detention.”
According to a statement released by the Philadelphia DA’s Office, the program, which originally only affected defendants with bails set at $100,00 or less, provides “the opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing to determine whether or not [defendants] must remain in custody” before their trial.
The expansion will also include individuals on probation who were previously left out from the first Early Bail Review.
“The expansion of Early Bail Review to more defendants within days of arrest will help ensure we are not needlessly incarcerating people who are not a danger to the public, as well as reducing harms associated with separating individuals from their families, vocations, and communities,” said Krasner.
“I am hopeful expansion of Early Bail Review will be a major step toward ending cash determinations on bail in Philadelphia. The public deserves a more intelligent approach to public safety that is based on actual information, not guesses about what people can afford to pay,” Krasner continued.
Since 2015, Philadelphia has been steadily working to eliminate over-incarceration in its jails through the Safety and Justice Challenge spearheaded by the Office of Criminal Justice and funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The DA’s office, the Defender Association, and the First Judicial District are just some of the partners involved in this movement.
According to the main website dedicated to the Safety and Justice Challenge, Philadelphia has been able to decrease its jail population by 50 percent in 2021 from 2015, but the city “still has the highest incarceration rate of any large jurisdiction in the country.”
Early Bail Review allows for a custody hearing to be held in front of a judge in the first few days after the defendant’s arrest, so that the bail can be set to a reasonable amount as per the charges. The hearing will also evaluate if the defendant needs to be held in custody or can be released until their trial.
In their released statement, the DA’s office explained that initial bail decisions are made by magistrates less than 24 hours after arrest when “prosecutors have not yet had the opportunity to speak with victims or witnesses, and defendants have not yet spoken to an attorney.”
With Early Bail Review, the defendant’s situation can be evaluated better with more information at hand. The DA’s office also said that Early Bail Review provides the judge with the chance to order house arrest. According to their statement, this gives defense attorneys an opportunity to “design a home plan for defendants that include drug treatment and other supportive services.”
Krasner said it will “help ensure we are not needlessly incarcerating people who are not a danger to the public, as well as reducing harms associated with separating individuals from their families, vocations, and communities.”
“It is the goal of my office — and I hope of our system partners as well — that within the next six months we are able to expand this program and offer bail hearings within three days of arrest to all criminal defendants,” Krasner added.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the poor do not remain in custody for want of cash,” he said, noting, “the rich are held if the circumstances demand it, and that the public is protected against those individuals who present a real and immediate public safety threat.”
Kelly Moran is currently a senior at Santa Clara University, though originally from Connecticut. She is majoring in English, with a focus on British Literature and Professional Writing, and is also minoring in Journalism.
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