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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.

Please sign up to get involved as a volunteer with Philadelphia Bail Watch!

Launch - Saturday, April 21, 2018

Please join us this Saturday for the launch of Philadelphia Bail Watch! You do not need any prior court experience to participate in this event.


  • Watch live bail hearings, and learn about their impact on pretrial detention and bail policy in Philadelphia.
  • Gather information about bail hearings and share your perceptions of the bail system to advocate for reform.

When: Saturday, April 21st from 8am-10:30am

Where: We will meet in the lobby of the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice (CJC) located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Plan to meet us before going through security.

What: We will begin by introducing ourselves and distributing the bail watching materials. Then we will watch bail hearings in room B-08. After the hearings finish, we will debrief on what we saw and ask everyone to complete the court watching forms.

Please make sure to bring a pen with you!


Training - Saturday, April 28, 2018

When: Saturday, April 28th from 2:30pm-5:30pm

Where: TBD

What: We will hold an hour-long training session for volunteers. After that we will go to the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice (CJC) to watch an afternoon session of bail hearings together.