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Unsecured Bonds: The As Effective and Most Efficient Pretrial Release Option

NCJ Number
Michael R. Jones
Date Published
October 2013
26 pages
This study provides empirical evidence about the effectiveness of secured and unsecured bonds.
This report provides data to judicial officers to support changing bail setting practices to maintain effectiveness while increasing efficiency. Findings show that for defendants who were lower, moderate, or higher risk, unsecured bonds are as effective at achieving public safety as are secured bonds; are as effective at achieving court appearance as are secured bonds; are as effective at "fugitive-re-turn" for defendants who have failed to appear as are secured bonds; free up more jail beds than do secured bonds because more defendants with unsecured bonds post their bonds; and defendants with unsecured bonds have faster release-from-jail times; and higher monetary amounts of secured bonds are associated with more pretrial jail bed use but not increased court appearance rates. Many defendants are incarcerated for the pretrial duration of their case and then released to the community upon case disposition; jurisdictions can now make data-guided changes to local pretrial case processing that would achieve their desired public safety and court appearance results while reserving more jail beds for unmanageably high risk defendants and sentenced offenders. Tables, figures, and references