Frequently Asked Questions
Are you letting bad people out of jail who will commit more crime?
People who are held in pretrial detention have not been convicted of any crime and are presumed innocent. Research shows that the vast majority of defendants who are free awaiting trial are not rearrested for new crimes. Of course, there will always be some risk that people out on bail commit crime. But that same risk exists today – people who can afford to post bail are released awaiting trial. The justice system does not work fairly when some people are detained because of their poverty. That is why we are working to move towards a system that is based on a presumption of release before trial and only detains the small fraction of people that pose a real danger to the community.
By paying bail for people, will the Philadelphia Bail Fund inadvertently inhibit bail reform?
We intend to do the exact opposite. Our model links direct bail assistance work with evaluation and strong advocacy for bail reform to end money bail. In fact, we believe paying bail for poor people is one of the strongest ways to protest the system and build evidence and political support for policy reform. If the Philadelphia Bail Fund is successful, it will cease to exist in the near future.
Why should the Philadelphia Bail Fund exist when city government is already working toward criminal justice reform?
We are encouraged by the Philadelphia city government’s efforts to reduce the prison population through its MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge grant and efforts by the Philadelphia court system, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Defender Association of Philadelphia toward criminal justice reform. However, while some attempts are being made to chip away at the pretrial detention population, there are thousands of Philadelphians who remain caught up in the unjust system today. Each day that someone is held in pretrial detention because of their poverty is an injustice and the impact on their life outcomes are severe. We seek to end this injustice by applying external pressure to accelerate the reform movement taking place in our city.
How will the Philadelphia Bail Fund measure the impact of its work?
We are working with Will Dobbie, Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University to design and implement an evaluation to measure the impact of our bail intervention. We seek to evaluate the effect of paying bail on outcomes such as case disposition, length of incarceration, employment, family income, and health status in order to effectively spread awareness, both with policymakers and the general public, about the real damage cash bail has on Philadelphians and the necessity for lasting reform.