Pretrial detention led to a 42% increase in sentence length

Our nation incarcerates almost half a million Americans not yet convicted of a crime but incarcerated because of their inability to pay bail, a new report from Thurgood Marshall Institute reports on money bail and algorithmic risk assessments.  

Summary By: Natalie Mattson
Summary By: Natalie Mattson

The Study's Critical Points

“Money bail is one of the many well-established practices in our criminal justice system that unjustly punishes people based on low-wealth and race.”

Highlights in numbers:

  • 90% of arrests are for misdemeanor charges
  • 80% of people released prior to trial were not arrested prior to trial and arrived at their court date
  • 98% of those released do not endanger public safety awaiting trial
  • 91% of people labeled high-risk for “new violent criminal activity” were not arrested for a violent crime awaiting trial
  • 66% of mothers cannot afford bail
  • $10,000 is the median money bail amount a felony
    • $16,000 is the average yearly income for a man who cannot afford bail
    • $11,000 is the average yearly income for a woman who cannot afford bail
  • 43% of people experiencing pretrial incarceration are Black
    • 13% of the U.S. population is
  • 20% of people experiencing pretrial incarceration are Latinx
    • about 13% of the U.S. population is
  • 48% of white people charged with felony crimes were incarcerated pretrial
  • 59% of Black people charged with the same crimes were incarcerated pretrial
  • A study conducted in 2014 found that Black people were 10% more likely to be incarcerated pretrial than white people who were accused of the same crime. Black people were 20% more likely to be incarcerated pretrial for misdemeanor property offenses than white people accused of the same crime.
 
 “Algorithmic risk assessments uncritically incorporate biased data infused with structural racism into what becomes biased decisions about pretrial incarceration.”

State stats:

  • In Broward County, Florida, the risk assessment algorithm was twice as likely to label Black people as high-risk for future criminal activity than white people.
  • A pretrial justice system study in Philadelphia reported that pretrial detention led to a 42% increase in the length of the sentence.
  • After Maryland introduced a statewide risk assessment tool, there was a 15.9% increase in the percentage of people held without bail in Montgomery County.
  • In Washington D.C., where there is no money bail, 94% of people awaiting trial are released, and 90% of them arrive at their court dates.
  • A pilot program started in Multnomah County, Oregon in 2007, made automatic reminder calls to people about their upcoming court dates. Court appearances increased by 31% and over a million dollars were saved by the county.
 

Read the whole study here.

VISUAL Breakdown

Above: A graphic depicting a quote of the issue of determining people’s risk through automated systems.

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