CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Gold & Wright on The Political Patterns of Bail Reform

Russell M. Gold and Ronald F. Wright (University of Alabama School of Law and Wake Forest University - School of Law) have posted The Political Patterns of Bail Reform (Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 55, No. 4, 743) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In this introduction to the Wake Forest Law Review’s symposium on pretrial detention reform, we examine the politics of the issue at the state and local levels. First, reforms in different places do not all share the same objectives. Some places seek less pretrial detention, while others wish to eliminate the use of cash bail that releases dangerous wealthy people and incarcerates other people solely for being poor. Second, localism is a powerful force in the choice of reform methods. There is no single sequence of reforms that state and local governments have followed to protect pretrial liberty. Even if the recent proposal from the Uniform Law Commission were to become a uniform statutory floor nationwide, some jurisdictions would nonetheless pursue more ambitious reforms.

Local variety is necessary because poorer and less-populated places have fewer tools for change. They have less access to data for monitoring their work and fewer community partners who can develop alternatives to incarceration. In more populated areas, caseload pressure often determines the changes to pretrial detention practices that are workable and attractive. For these reasons, local variations in reform strategies follow familiar patterns: identifiable local coalitions tend to work together to advocate for groups of reforms that fit the local situation. We think that is very much to the good.

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