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August 26, 2019 RAPID RESPONSE

A Conversation on Bail Reform

Criminal defendants often face a significant restraint on their liberty even before indictment and trial: pre-trial detention. Traditionally, bail has been understood as collateral to ensure that defendants return to court. But many jurisdictions maintain a bail system that amounts to punishment before conviction for poor defendants. Criminal defendants who lack the financial means to post money bail are often trapped behind bars until their case is resolved, while defendants who can afford it post bail and regain their freedom. This webinar explores the inequality of bail systems and the approaches that jurisdictions have taken to make bail more fair for everyone. We discuss the long-term economic and social impacts that pre-trial detention causes long after arrest, recent studies that indicate how racial bias impacts bail decisions, and how the impact of pre-trial detention increases the likelihood of a defendant ultimately pleading guilty.


  • Alec Karakatsanis, Executive Director, Civil Rights Corps
  •  John Mathews II, Senior Legal Counsel, The Justice Collaborative
  • Crystal Yang, Professor, Harvard Law

Co-Sponsors: ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice Economic Justice Committee, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice Fair and Impartial Courts Committee; ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense

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