RELEASE: After One Year, the Reduction of Cash Bail in Philadelphia for Low-Level Offenses Found a Success

Philadelphia DAO
The Justice Wire
Published in
5 min readFeb 19, 2019




CONTACT: Ben Waxman, 215–686–8711,

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 19, 2019) — One year after implementation, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney today announced the successful implementation and supportive third part review of Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s (DAO) reduction of cash bail policy for low-level offenses.

“The progressive bail policies implemented by the District Attorney are a critical step in moving away from the use of cash bail in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Kenney. “Other milestones include the Early Bail Review program lead by Municipal Court, the Public Defender’s Office decision to post pretrial advocates to police districts to advocate for release at the bail hearing, and the First Judicial District’s elimination of bail fees. I’m looking forward to our continued collaboration with our DA and all of our partners as we reform our criminal justice systems for the better.”

“We changed our low-level bail policy because it was the right, and fair, thing to do for the poor, for people of color, and everyone in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system. What we had a year ago wasn’t fair, but after a year of use and a supportive third party review, I’m happy that we’ve made real progress for our city,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner. “I’d like to thank Professors Ouss and Stevenson, the hardworking team in my office, and our criminal justice partners for their support and partnership this past year.”

In order to make sure the DAO’s cash bail policy was targeting the right defendants with the desired outcomes, Aurelie Ouss, Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Megan Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Law at George Mason University performed an independent evaluation of the results and found that the policy did not produce “…detectable evidence that the decreased use of monetary bail, unsecured bond, and release on conditions had adverse effects on appearance rates or recidivism.” The study, Evaluating the Impacts of Eliminating Prosecutorial Requests for Cash Bail, also found:

* Defendants released on recognizance (ROR) successfully showed up for court in similar amounts as compared to those released during the previous administration;

* Defendants released on ROR were not rearrested more often when compared to those released during the previous administration;

* Over the past 10 months, about 1,700 fewer defendants were sent to jail before their first hearing;

* There was an immediate 23 percent increase in the number of eligible defendants who were released on ROR, without any monetary bail, or with other supervisory conditions;

* A 41 percent decline in bail in amounts of $5,000 or less; and

* A five percent decline in eligible defendants who spent at least one night in jail.

“Our paper is one of the first to directly assess the effects of cash bail on court appearance rates and offending. We find that reducing the use of monetary bail for nonviolent offenders has no detectable effect on pretrial misconduct. We are eager to continue this work bail reform, as we are encouraged to find that there are ways to reduce reliance on monetary bail without large adverse consequences,” said Aurelie Ouss, Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Megan Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Law at George Mason University.

Cash Bail Process

The use of the new policy, which calls for Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) to no longer request cash bail for defendants charged with one of 25 specific charges (a detailed list is attached), marked a decisive step towards making the city’s pre-trial system fairer for the poor and for people of color. It should be noted that this policy is a presumption and ADAs are still permitted to ask for authorization from a supervisor to request cash bail if they believe it is in the interest of public safety.

When a defendant is charged with Possession with the Intent to Deliver (PWID) a substance other than marijuana, the DAO continues to consider the following factors to determine a bail request:

* If the weight of the drugs is greater than 2.5g of heroin, 5g of cocaine/crack, 12.5 g of methamphetamine/PCP/amphetamine, or 5g of any other schedule I/II narcotic;

* There is evidence of the presence of fentanyl;

* The defendant has received two or more bench warrants in the past five years;

* The defendant has one or more open PWID, violent felony, or gun-related case; and

* The defendant has finished serving a PWID sentence in the last two years, a violent felony in the past five years, or a gun-related case in the past five years.

If one or more of the above factors apply, bail requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

After a defendant is taken into custody, a hearing typically takes place in front of a Bail Commissioner, where the ADA requests a certain level of bail. For the 25 lead charges, nearly one in four defendants received bail between $0 and $10,000, which could keep them in pre-trial custody with these methods:

* Released on Recognizance;

* Released on Special Conditions (this kind of release involves some pre-arranged communication between the defendant and FJD Pre-Trial Services before trial); or

* Signed on Bond (a promise to pay an unsecured bail if the defendant violates their release).

ADAs still have the discretion to ask for monetary bail in exceptional circumstances. For example, cases where a defendant is charged with a string of crimes, such as burglaries or thefts, or who have multiple DUIs in a short period of time.

The office’s cash bail policy is attached. The study and related summary documents can be found at


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 citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of ov



Philadelphia DAO
The Justice Wire

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