HARRISBURG – October 22, 2019 – State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) today introduced legislation that would end pretrial detention for those who fail to post bail.
“There are nearly half a million Americans who are in jail even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime. That statistic alone should be enough to convince the rest of my colleagues in the legislature to act now,” Leach said. “The American justice system holds sacred the idea that we are innocent until proven guilty, but on any given day you can find thousands of Pennsylvanians locked up simply because they couldn’t afford to post bail. So many people are being imprisoned in pretrial detention simply because they’re poor.”
Leach’s bill would not eliminate bail entirely. Instead, it would eliminate pre-trial detention for failure to make bail. It would permit judges to set monetary bail, which defendants would have to pay if they failed to appear. The bill would also allow a judge to detain a defendant if they find the defendant is a danger to themselves or the community, has a history of flight or is charged with a capital crime.
Currently, bail is set based on the premise that it’s necessary to secure a defendant’s appearance in court. We now know that’s untrue; places like Washington D.C. have virtually eliminated monetary bail and yet their flight rates have not changed. In fact, in some instances, they’ve improved.
People most likely unable to make bail are poor people. Wealthier people, on the other hand, are typically able to pay their bail, and are oftentimes still given more affordable bail than poor people and people of color. The people that are forced to sit in jail for months awaiting trial often lose their jobs, their homes and their families, even when they are acquitted. In those cases, they are left with very few options for employment and are statistically more likely to commit another crime. That awful result costs our taxpayers a fortune, since it costs thousands of dollars per month per individual to incarcerate presumptively innocent people.
Leach today introduced the policy’s language as Senate Bill 918, a copy of the co-sponsorship memo can be found here. Next, the president pro tempore will assign the bill to a senate committee for consideration, at which time the proposal will be available online. Leach also penned this Op-Ed on the subject in the past.
Senator Daylin Leach represents the 17th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Delaware County. For more information visit www.senatorleach.com/newsroom.