John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice Reveals Bail Decision Gaps between Judges and Risk of Failure to Appear

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By Kaylynn Chang

NEW YORK, NY —  A new comprehensive study by the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College examines failure to appear (FTA) rates among individuals released at arraignment in New York.

This study, the first to analyze the prevalence and predictors of FTA since the implementation of bail reform and the resolution of pandemic-related court disruptions, found, under New York law, courts can set bail or other pretrial conditions only if deemed “necessary” to ensure the identify factors that increase the surety of the accused’s return to court.

By utilizing public data from the Office of Court Administration (OCA) and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the study determined the FTA rates for all cases arraigned in 2022, and the study aims to understand how often individuals miss court dates and the reasoning behind patterns of absence.

Data Collaborative for Justice pointed out the law states courts may set bail or other pretrial conditions solely if they are “necessary” to ensure return to court.

Data Collaborative for Justice then looked at factors that point to an elevated FTA risk and this is the first study to explore FTA rates and their predictors since the implementation of bail reform and the easing of pandemic-related court disruptions.

Some key insights from the study show 17 percent of those arraigned missed a court date, a figure consistent with the pre-bail reform 2019.

Only 13 percent of individuals charged with violent felonies missed court dates, indicating a lower FTA risk than other charges. FTA rates differed considerably depending on the specific charge.

Researchers estimated what the FTA rate would have been for people not released at arraignment. Given their mix of charge and criminal history characteristics, people charged with bail-eligible violent felonies for whom judges set bail or remand had a projected FTA rate of 16 percent, just three percent higher than 13 percent for released cases.

This data suggests that when judges opt for bail or remand, they are not identifying people with a substantially higher FTA risk than those they choose to release.

Petit larceny, misdemeanor drug possession, and burglary had the highest FTA rates, said the report by Data Collaborative for Justice, adding DWI (driving while impaired) had the lowest. Statewide, the FTA risk varied from five percent for DWI to 28 percent for petit larceny.

Since most violent felonies remain eligible for bail and pretrial detention, it’s critical to address any overestimation of flight risk by the courts, the report noted.

“With the passage of New York’s bail reform law, one thing that hasn’t changed is that judges can only consider risk of flight in deciding whether to detain a person before trial,” said Stephen Koppel, senior research associate at the Data Collaborative for Justice.

“And while there’s been extensive analysis on the possible link between bail and crime, research on failure to appear in the post-reform context has been notably lacking. Here we tried to address that gap,” Koppel added.

In the area of bail decisions, the study found no connection between race and FTA rates.

However, it links previous findings that New York courts are more likely to set bail for Black individuals compared to white individuals. Black, Hispanic, and white people had the same likelihood of FTA of 17 percent, and for violent felonies, statewide FTA rates also did not vary by race/ethnicity.

The study shows that “although race and ethnicity have no relationship to FTA, the study found judges in 2022 set bail or remand significantly more for Black and Hispanic than white people in every State region among bail-eligible violent felonies.”

Given this new data that reveals the challenges of addressing how to deal with FTA and the impacts, “This is an important moment for pretrial justice in New York,” said Michael Rempel, director of the Data Collaborative for Justice.

Rempel added, “With a new chief judge and revamped court administration seeking to expand judicial training and improve the delivery of justice, studies like this one can hopefully correct prevailing misconceptions about who is truly at risk of missing court, thereby aiding important reforms that are now underway.”

About The Author

Kaylynn Chang is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley looking to major in Legal Studies with a strong interest in criminal justice and judicial law. Having years of experence with journalism and leading a publication, she loves to look for the stories of her community, focusing on the hidden voices and intriguing tales of people. She hopes to attend law school in the future, but for now she is looking to gain experience and experiment with her path. A passionate creator, a cafe connoisseur, and a library enthusiast, Kaylynn is always looking for small adventures along with accomplishing big goals.

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