Atlanta, Georgia – Bail Reform Advocate Misses One Talking Point: The Truth

In any debate, one would like to think that the truth matters…that facts matter.

Unfortunately, in the debate surrounding bail reform, this is often not the case. Case in point…Atlanta, Georgia.

Last week in Atlanta, Georgia an attorney who is advocating for the elimination of financially secured release made a completely outrageous and erroneous statement to the Atlanta City Council.  She claimed that there has been “no study” that correlates money bond to failure to appear rates or public safety.  The reality is that there are actually MANY studies that link the use of financially secured release (aka money bond) to failure to appear rates and public safety.

In fact, EVERY legitimate third-party objective study done on the topic has shown that there is an incredibly strong link between money and appearance rates.  In other words, when someone is released on a financially secured bond, they are significantly more likely to show up for court.

This increase in appearance rate means that these individuals are not out on the street committing more crimes…thus translating into a benefit to public safety.  Either this attorney is misinformed, or purposely trying to mislead the Atlanta City Council.

Just in case this attorney wants to do a little extra curricular reading on the topic, we have provided a “starter” list of research studies that show the link between financially secured release and failure to appear rates that she is so certain doesn’t exist. The fact is…secured financial release far outperforms a “get out of jail free” card.  Happy reading.

“Defendants released on surety bond are 28 percent less likely to fail to appear than similar defendants released on their own recognizance, and if they do fail to appear, they are 53 percent less likely to remain at large for extended periods of time… Given that a defendant skips town, however, the probability of recapture is much higher for those defendants released on a surety bond.  As a result, the probability of being a fugitive is 64 percent lower for those released on surety bond…These findings indicate that bond dealers and bail enforcement agents…are effective at discouraging flight and at recapturing defendants.”  – Alex Tabarrok

Bureau of Justice Statistics: Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants in State Courts (1990-2004)…only 14 years of annual studies conducted by the Department of Justice all showing that money improves appearance.

The Fugitive: Evidence on Public Versus Private Law Enforcement from Bail Jumping (University of Chicago Journal of Law and Economics…only one of the most prestigious legal publications in the world)

Pretrial Release Mechanisms in Dallas County, Texas: Differences in Failure to Appears, Recidivism/Pretrial Misconduct and Associated Cost of FTA ( University of Texas at Dallas)

Runaway Losses: Estimating the Costs of Failure to Appear in the Los Angeles Criminal Justice System, American Legislative Exchange Council (1997)

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