District Attorney Krasner Announces Details of Early Bail Review Expansion to Safely Reduce Pre-Trial Detention
Jane Roh, 215–686–8711, Jane.Roh@phila.gov
PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 9, 2021) — The District Attorney’s Office, the First Judicial District, and the Defender Association are moving forward with expansion of the Early Bail Review Program to give more defendants the opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing to determine whether or not they must remain in custody pretrial. These efforts are aimed at safely reducing pre-trial detention, lowering the jail population, and bolstering community-based approaches to pre-trial services for defendants.
Starting March 1, 2021, the Early Bail Review Program will provide robust custody determination hearings before a judge for all defendants whose bail is set at $250,000 or less, within the first several days of arrest. Prior to this expansion, only those defendants whose bail was set at $100,000 or less received Early Bail Review. Previously, defendants who had probation or parole detainers were also excluded from Early Bail Review, regardless of the bail set in their new case. Beginning on March 1st, these defendants will also receive an Early Bail Review Hearing.
“The expansion of Early Bail Review to more defendants within days of arrest will help ensure we are not needlessly incarcerating people who are not a danger to the public, as well as reducing harms associated with separating individuals from their families, vocations, and communities,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “On March 1st, the City of Philadelphia will take an important step toward reforming the pre-trial system by shifting away from cash-based determinations toward community-based approaches that prioritize public safety and fairness.”
District Attorney Krasner added: “We thank our justice partners for their hard work, as well as the Managing Director’s Office and the MacArthur Foundation for providing the funding that makes this expansion possible.”
In the summer of 2020, the District Attorney, First Judicial District, Defender Association, and other city partners committed to expanding the Early Bail Review Program and applied to the MacArthur Foundation for funding to make this a reality. The MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge will support the salaries of four additional staff members at the Defender Association, and one and a half additional staff here at the District Attorney’s Office. Initial bail decisions are made by magistrates less than 24 hours after arrest. Prosecutors have not yet had the opportunity to speak with victims or witnesses, and defendants have not yet spoken to an attorney.
Early Bail Review presents an opportunity for both parties to make more informed arguments before a judge, with the benefit of more information about defendants, witnesses, and victims. The judge can also order house arrest in Early Bail Review, which is not possible at preliminary arraignment, and defense attorneys can design a home plan for defendants that includes drug treatment and other supportive services.
District Attorney Krasner said: “I am hopeful expansion of Early Bail Review will be a major step toward ending cash determinations on bail in Philadelphia. The public deserves a more intelligent approach to public safety that is based on actual information, not guesses about what people can afford to pay. It is the goal of my office — and I hope of our system partners as well — that within the next six months we are able to expand this program and offer bail hearings within three days of arrest to all criminal defendants. We have a responsibility to ensure that the poor do not remain in custody for want of cash, the rich are held if the circumstances demand it, and that the public is protected against those individuals who present a real and immediate public safety threat.”
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually.