(WHTM) – Governor Tom Wolf is proposing changes to the commonwealth’s cash bail policy and pre-trial services.
As part of the Governor’s 869-page budget proposal, the administration says a proposed monetary cash bail reform “should not only reduce the disproportionate impact on minorities in the criminal justice system, but also reduce the total number of indigent defendants held in jail pretrial.”
The budget says this system would save money for local county governments “without negatively impacting public safety.”
An exact plan for the Governor’s vision of bail reform was not outlined in his speech.
“Everyone has a right to a fair trial and not to be held in prison based solely on inability to pay, Pennsylvania must implement a best practices model for bail and pretrial services. According to Pennsylvania’s most recent Justice Reinvestment Initiative report and reports released by the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness, bail decisions – and particularly the use of monetary cash bail – vary widely county-by-county and disproportionally impact minority defendants. To address this disparity, the report recommended that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court review court rules related to bail determination to encourage greater consistency in bail decisions across the commonwealth.
Research shows that less time spent in jail pretrial lowers the chances of committing another crime. The inability to pay bail leads to increases in the likelihood of conviction, increased guilty pleas, higher average court costs, and longer incarceration sentences. Bail amounts for misdemeanors and felonies can be 10 times higher in some counties compared to others, ranging from a low of $1,000 to a high of $10,000 for misdemeanors, and $5,000 to $50,000 for felonies. The amount of monetary bail is higher for black individuals than for white individuals – more than half of those with monetary bail are unable
to post it.
Monetary cash bail reform should not only reduce the disproportionate impact on minorities in the criminal justice system, but also reduce the total number of indigent defendants held in jail pretrial, thereby producing savings for county governments without negatively impacting public safety.
The impact of bail reform in neighboring New York has been a hot topic among law enforcement and Republicans across the Empire State.
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The Governor’s proposed budget also outlines a $141 million increase of state General Fund funding to reduce the reliance on the Motor License Fund while enabling the Pennsylvania State Police to start two more cadet classes to graduate 200-300 new troopers.
Additional proposals in the Governor’s public safety plan can be read below:
- Invests $7.7 million in law enforcement technology to increase public and law enforcement officer safety with both mobile video recorders and body worn cameras
- Proposes $35 million in grants and technical assistance through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for community-led gun violence prevention efforts
- Reforms the monetary cash bail policy and pretrial services for defendants while producing savings for county governments without negatively impacting public safety efforts throughout communities
- Assist county juvenile probation offices by investing $425,000 for increased consulting resources
- Provides $1 million for reentry services to assist women by giving them the best opportunity to start fresh and reduce recidivism
- Calls for expansion of the Clean Slate Law
- Supports the medical release of eligible inmates including the elderly to continue care in appropriate long-term care facilities or domiciliary care without posing a risk to the community and saving taxpayer dollars; and invests $7 million in the Department of Human Services for the purpose of creating available beds for individuals leaving a state correctional facility with complex medical or behavioral health needs
- Directs $1 million to PCCD to address indigent defense inadequacies throughout the legal system and to provide critical services to indigent defendants