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New report assesses disparities in the bail bond system

Bail Bond

A new report from the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy examines the bail bond system’s effect on racial disparities within the criminal justice system, efforts to reform the use of bail bonds, and the potential impact of Indiana House Enrolled Act 1300 on defendants.

Nationally, bail amounts are 34% higher for Black men and 19% higher for Latino men compared to their white counterparts. Bail amounts in Marion County, Indiana, are similar to those in other counties across the state. However, bail amounts in other states can vary significantly. Many defendants—including those in Marion County—also must cover additional costs beyond bail due to court fees and nonrefundable fees charged by bail bond companies. This increased cost affects whether someone can afford to post bail and avoid pretrial detention.

Research does not provide sufficient evidence that pretrial detention is necessary to ensure public safety. In fact, holding defendants until their trials can have negative long-term impacts on them, their families, and the community. Those who cannot afford bail often face job loss, housing instability, child custody issues, and reincarceration. Their physical and mental health also is negatively impacted while they wait in jail for their hearings.

A new Indiana law set to take effect on July 1, 2022, will further reduce options for defendants. Indiana HEA 1300 limits charitable organizations’ ability to provide bail to people who have a violent offense in their history, regardless of when that offense occurred. This shift creates a dependency upon the bail bond industry which charges more and does not provide support services, such as court date reminders and transportation assistance.

Despite much debate about the differences in outcomes for people who use charitable organizations’ services and those who rely on bail bond companies, a lack of data makes it impossible to compare these two groups. Indiana does not track data on bail information and bail bond companies do not share their data publicly.

As a result, CRISP researchers developed a list of considerations for leaders when addressing bail reform issues.

Eliminating the cash bail system can reduce racial disparities at this stage of the criminal justice system by removing wealth-based pretrial requirements that often favor white defendants with access to funds.

Other states, such as New Jersey, have successfully reduced the use of cash bail systems and instead issue only a court summons for lower-level offenses. These changes decreased the state’s jail population by 35%.

Increasing access to quality services that address the social issues that often lead to lower-level offenses—such as substance use and a lack of income—could reduce the number of offenses that lead to incarceration and require pretrial detention or the use of bail bonds.

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