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Making Bail in New York City

NCJ Number
Mary T. Phillips, Ph.D.
Date Published
May 2010
8 pages
This brief examined the role of commercial bonds for defendants making bail.
Results suggest that commercial bonds are costlier for defendants than posting cash bail, yet the poor are driven to pay high bond fees because the amount of cash needed up front is often considerably less than would be required to post cash directly with the court. Commercial bondsmen decide which clients to accept, how much and what type of collateral to require, and what sort of supervision to impose. Their decisions are based on the defendant's ability to pay rather than on any empirical assessment of risk. This discriminates against the poor and removes some aspects of the release decision from the court. The inability to post cash bail is also costly in terms of time spent in pretrial detention. Suggestion are provided for several measures that could be taken by the courts to reduce reliance on bondsmen in cases where judges are not willing to consider Release on Own Recognizance (ROR), or supervised release where available. 15 figures