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About PHilADELPHIA Bail Watch

The Philadelphia Bail Fund and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts have developed Philadelphia Bail Watch in order to shine a light on the current preliminary arraignment process, where money bail decisions are made and, ultimately, people’s access to freedom pretrial is determined. Did you know that defendants in Philadelphia do not get to meet with an attorney before their bail hearings (preliminary arraignments)? Or that bail hearings often last 90 seconds or less?

Philadelphia Bail Watch has three main goals:

  1. Invite the public and interested stakeholders to watch Philadelphia’s preliminary arraignment hearing process and learn about its implications for bail policy and pretrial detention;
  2. Monitor the current preliminary arraignment process and impact of the District Attorney’s recent bail reform efforts; and
  3. Collect and share people’s perceptions of Philadelphia’s preliminary arraignment process in order to use this information to advocate for improvements.

Through Philadelphia Bail Watch, court watch volunteers will gather data and share their impressions of bail hearings. The Philadelphia Bail Fund and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts will then compile the information collected to issue a report to Judge Marsha H. Neifield, President Judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and her colleagues on our collective findings. Preliminary impressions will be shared on this website every two weeks and a findings report will be released in the summer of 2018.

By having community members present at bail hearings and fighting for greater fairness and transparency, we hope to improve the preliminary arraignment process and advocate for bail reform in Philadelphia. Read reflections from Philadelphia Bail Watch volunteers here. 


We are looking for volunteers to attend bail hearings and share their impressions with us. Please sign up here if you are interested in participating in Philadelphia Bail Watch. 

Please contact us at if you are part of an organization that would like to learn more about Philadelphia Bail Watch. We can come to your organization to provide a training and recruit volunteers to attend bail hearings.

Did you already attend bail hearings? Fill out our reflections form online.