FCJC Report Examines Federal Pretrial Detention, Writes USA TODAY

Study: Federal magistrates, prosecutors misunderstand bail law, jailing people who should go free

A Reagan-era law, passed by Congress nearly four decades ago to change the federal bail system in order to address concerns over rising crime committed by arrestees released pending trial, has been wildly misunderstood and misapplied by the federal court system's magistrate judges, prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers, a new two-year national study finds.

The unprecedented look at federal pretrial detention conducted by the University of Chicago Law School's Federal Criminal Justice Clinic paints a portrait of a judicial system that has neglected the rights of especially poor arrestees and people of color. Such systemic problems are largely the result of what judges and advocates told USA TODAY is a poorly-written, war-on-drugs-era statute known as the Bail Reform Act of 1984, an over reliance on prosecutorial discretion, and risk-averse magistrate judges and federal defenders.

According to the report, in 1983, less than 24% of arrestees were jailed pretrial. By 2019, nearly 75% of them were.

Read more at USA TODAY

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