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The bail reform project

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

The State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit adopted a no-money-bail policy for nine misdemeanor offenses. Did this change impact defendants' quality of life, recidivism rates, and sentencing?


Eliminating Cash Bail

Reducing or eliminating cash bail has become increasingly promoted, but skeptics have raised concerns that negative consequences may flow from the policy change (Ouss & Stevenson, 2019). "Thus evidence on how monetary bail impacts appearance rates and pretrial crime is crucially important to the future of bail reform" (Ouss & Stevenson, 2019, p. 5). Evaluating bail reform, particularly the use of non-monetary release, however, is sparse (Ouss & Stevenson, 2019). Similar to the recent study by Ouss & Stevenson (2019) which evaluated the increased use of nonmonetary release in Philadelphia, the proposed project, research objective, and questions are intended to explore the impact of a new non-monetary bail reform instituted by the Orange County (Florida) Office of the State Attorney in mid-2018. INstituitng this policy created an opportunity to measure the influence of no-monetary bail on defendants charged with nine low-level, non-violent misdemeanor offenses on a variety of judicial and quality-of-life outcomes compared to pre-policy outcomes, evaluate judicial determinations on bail controlling for demographic and case characteristics, and compare outcomes to a control groups of the remaining misdemeanor crimes.

First Stage

The first stage of the project takes a quantitative approach, using archival data to evaluate the impact of the policy on judicial outcomes (release and sentencing), court appearance, and recidivism.

Second Stage

The second stage of the project focuses on defendant interviews and content analysis to capture the influence of pretrial detention or release on their perceptions about the court system and court actors as well as the consequences of pretrial detention and/or the potential benefits of effective advocacy and non monetary release on defendants' quality of life, including employment, housing, and child custody.

Research Questions

(1) To what extent is prosecutorial advocacy for misdemeanor defendants' non-monetary release associated with judicial bail determinations?


(2) What is the relationship, if any, between misdemeanor defendant's pretrial status (release on own recognizance, released on monetary bail, released under new policy, or pretrial detention) and their subsequent judicial outcome?


(3) To what extent might defendants' perceptions of the courts and court actors impact court appearance and recidivism rates?


(4) To what extent is the bail determination (released on own recognizance, released on monetary bail, released under new, non-monetary bail policy, or pretrial detention) associated with judicial outcomes, quality of life measures, perception of the courts and court actors?

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