Bail has been a part of United States history for a long time. Bail refers to the practice of releasing suspects from custody before their hearing, on payment of money to the court which may be refunded if suspects return to court for their trial. In pre-independence America, bail was based on English Law and the colonies protected its own subjects. After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the colonies enacted their own version of bail laws. Bail is nothing new and neither is bail reform.
For years, those who are against the bail system have been hard at work. The Bail Reform Act of 1966, which stated that decisions in regards to bail must consider family and community ties, employment history and past record of court appearances, was considered a major overhaul of the bail system in the U.S.
The District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970 allowed judges to consider danger and flight risk when setting bail.
The Bail Reform Act of 1966 did NOT allow judges to consider the perceived threat a defendant may pose to his or her community in determining bail which received much criticism and eventually led to The Bail Reform Act of 1984. This act stated that a judge must deny bail if a defendant is considered a risk to his or her community. In 1987, the Supreme Court upheld the Bail Reform Act of 1984 which allowed judges to deny bail based on a defendants perceived danger to the community.
In 2006, the Adam Walsh Amendments (AWA) was added to the Bail Reform Act of 1984, which stated that anyone accused of a crime involving a minor must be confined, under curfew and must report regularly to law enforcement.
As of 2008, four states, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin had abolished commercial bail. As of 2012, Nebraska and Maine prohibited surety bonds and New Jersey abolished commercial bail in 2017. Many more state’s are joining the fight in Bail Reform.
Bail Reform has its pro’s and con’s however one thing can be certain, NO system, whether money bail or pre-trial release program is perfect. Nothing or no one can fully guarantee whether or not an accused will show up to court once they have been released.