Philadel­phia will stop keep­ing a por­tion of de­fen­dants’ bail

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Clau­dia Lauer The Associated Press

The city of Philadel­phia will no longer keep a por­tion of de­fen­dants’ bail de­posits even if they ap­pear for court hear­ings, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The First Ju­di­cial District of Penn­syl­va­nia, which cov­ers the Philadel­phia County court sys­tem, an­nounced the change at a news con­fer­ence. The re­vi­sion means the city will re­turn the en­tire bail amount to de­fen­dants who meet their court obli­ga­tions. The pre­vi­ous rule al­lowed the city to keep up to 30 per­cent of a de­fen­dant’s bail de­posit.

“I be­lieve jus­tice has to be just and fair. You still have to hold in­di­vid­u­als ac­count­able, but it can’t be a sys­tem that fa­vors one group of in­di­vid­u­als ver­sus an­other,” said City Coun­cil­man Keny­atta John­son. “When we talk about eco­nomic im­pact of us­ing cash bail to de­tain in­di­vid­u­als, we know some peo­ple have the abil­ity to make cash bail in a timely fash­ion and some peo­ple don’t. But we wanted to look at more pro­gres­sive ways to make sure peo­ple come to court.”

The money — about $3 mil­lion an­nu­ally — was sent to the city’s gen­eral fund, not used to specif­i­cally fund the court’s op­er­a­tions. Mayor Jim Ken­ney com­mended the move, say­ing the money was not in­cluded in the bud­get plan this year be­cause of­fi­cials had hoped that the court would agree to elim­i­nate the prac­tice.

The change came as the court de­cided to do away with an­other rule that out­lined poli­cies on de­tain­ers, or or­ders to keep peo­ple on pa­role or pro­ba­tion in jail if they are ar­rested on a new crime.

The court plans to re­place the rule re­quir­ing hear­ings be­fore is­su­ing a de­tainer with a rule that re­flects the cur­rent prac­tices of the court, said Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion Supervising Judge Leon Tucker. It is too early to pro­vide de­tails, he said, but the de­tain­ers will be used only when “ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.”

Pub­lic de­fend­ers and crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form ad­vo­cates have com­plained that the courts have of­ten is­sued au­to­matic de­tain­ers for lower-level crimes with­out hold­ing hear­ings.

The group #No215Jail Coali­tion and the Philadel­phia Com­mu­nity Bail Fund com­mended the change to bail re­lease but raised con­cerns about the elim­i­na­tion of the rules for de­tain­ers with­out any re­place­ment ready.

“Rather than abid­ing by this rule and en­sur­ing that de­fen­dants ex­pe­ri­ence some mea­sure of due process be­fore hav­ing their free­dom taken away, the court has in­stead cho­sen to sim­ply elim­i­nate the rule they had long ig­nored,” a state­ment said.

Philadel­phia has been high­lighted in re­cent months by crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form ad­vo­cates for hav­ing an ab­nor­mally high num­ber of peo­ple on pro­ba­tion or pa­role, and Tucker said Thurs­day that about 55 per­cent of the city’s jail pop­u­la­tion is be­ing held on de­tain­ers.

Philadel­phia de­part­ments have rolled out crim­i­nal jus­tice re­forms over the past few years aimed at re­duc­ing the jail pop­u­la­tion sig­nif­i­cantly by 2020.

The changes are spurred by a $3.5 mil­lion MacArthur Foun­da­tion Safety and Jus­tice Chal­lenge grant and in­clude cre­at­ing di­vi­sion­ary pro­grams, speed­ing up the process for bail and ar­raign­ment hear­ings, elim­i­nat­ing bail for lower level of­fenses, and other mod­i­fi­ca­tions.


Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney ar­rives for a news con­fer­ence at City Hall to dis­cus bail re­form at a news con­fer­ence at City Hall in Philadel­phia, Thurs­day, Oct. 11, 2018.

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