The Atlantic’s ongoing series “The Presence of Justice”
investigates the problem of mass incarceration in the United States. The publication’s expose on the money bail system highlighted New Orleans as a key battleground for reform and commended SGPF partner Jonathan Friedman
for his work to make the system more just for low income, low-risk defendants.
“Courts across the country are starting to face legal and legislative challenges to their bail systems. And New Orleans has become a key battleground, as lawmakers try to shake its legacy as “the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the world.”
The bail bonds industry has argued that financial collateral is the only effective way to ensure defendants return to court for their trials. Starting in the spring, the Orleans Parish criminal district court decided to test this theory with a pilot program that came close to approximating what it would be like if the court eliminated bail altogether. It used a risk assessment tool to identify who was most likely to return to court without incident—and then it released them without making them pay.”
New Orleans’s pilot program was a key step in a set of reforms the city has tried over the past several years. Though the risk assessment tool has been in place for years, many judges are still setting high bail amounts for low-risk defendants. In this latest effort, one commissioner who makes bail determinations, Jonathan Friedman
, was encouraged to release low-risk defendants on only a written promise to return to court in lieu of a bail bond. If required by law to set bail on certain charges, the commissioner was encouraged to set it at just a few dollars or some other nominal amount that defendants could afford. He could also choose to require defendants to undergo pretrial supervision rather than send them to jail.
Now that pretrial services have been in place for a few years, however, the current city administration has touted the program for saving millions of dollars in incarceration costs.
Click here to read the full article on TheAtlantic.com.