Federal Criminal Justice Clinic Authors Federal Bail Reform Recommendation for New Administration

Issue: Presumption of Release & Reimagining the Federal Bail Reform Act

Federal bail reform is essential to reducing mass incarceration and advancing racial equity. Federal pretrial incarceration has skyrocketed since the Bail Reform Act of 1984 (the BRA) was passed. The BRA was intended to incarcerate only people who pose a high risk of nonappearance in court or a threat to others, but has instead enabled widespread jailing of nonviolent, low-risk individuals and has resulted in troubling racial disparities. Today, federal prosecutors and courts deprive three out of every four people of their liberty before trial, despite their presumed innocence. The 75 percent federal pretrial detention rate stands in stark contrast to a 45 percent detention rate for state-level violent felonies. Incarceration at such levels is unnecessary and counterproductive. Government statistics show that people released pretrial in federal cases overwhelmingly appear for court as required and are not a threat to community safety. Pretrial jailing thus needlessly deprives people of liberty, tears them away from families and communities, drains them from the workforce, and consigns them to higher sentences. These burdens fall especially heavily on Black and Latinx people, who account for 80 percent of those charged with federal crimes and are more likely to be jailed pretrial than whites.

Read more at Transformative Justice: Justice Roundtable's Recommendations for the New Administration and the 117th Congress