Alternatives to Jail – Pretrial Release and Bail
From a very young age human beings are programmed to suffer the consequences of their wrong doings – be it stealing an ice cream cone or robbing a bank. Very few of us try to understand the purpose behind such chastisement; it is to improve, to pay the dues and get back into the ‘good life’. This concept is most clear to those who are spending or have spent time in prison. Convicts - ex and present- realize the magnitude of their transgressions during the extended, solitary and challenging life in prison. Which brings us to the question whether we, as a society, want them in prison for our well-being, theirs or just to see them suffer?
Alternatives to Jail in Salt Lake City
As a civil and liberal society, we must be mindful of the right to life and freedom of every citizen. We also do not have the resources to keep every small and big offender behind bars, that will lead to an economic downturn which will be intolerable given the recent recovery from a recession. For these reasons, we must consider some alternatives to jail time. One of the most commonly used is bail. An under trial whose guilt has not yet been determined in the court has a right to apply for bail – time outside the jail till his/her case hearing. One alternative is for the defendant to offer a bail bond or money which is co-signed by an attorney and the defendant’s family or friends, who take responsibility for his presentation in court at the time of hearing. In some cases the defendant can himself sign an affidavit with assurance of appearance at every trial date.
Bail is given to an accused based upon the nature of the accusations and the urgency of the hearing. The court sets the bail amount, which is usually an amount to make up for the damage against the defendant. The Bail Reform Act of 1984 governs the provision of bail. Granting bail is at the discretion of the court, as it determines the nature of the allegation, the flight risk and how much of a threat the accused can pose to the society, if left free.
Pretrial release is the conditional or non-conditional release of a defendant before his case comes up for hearing. While bail is usually associated with the surety of money or defendant’s kith or kin, pretrial release may or may not require such provisions. Judges consider the following while making pretrial decisions – defendant’s employment status, residence, family history, substance abuse, mental health, criminal records, and punctuality in previous appearances in court. Money bail is usually imposed when no other less restrictive conditions can be levied. Therefore, money bail is a less safe option for the community as hardened criminals can get out of custody by offering a few hundred bucks. On the other hand, defendants who cannot afford the bail can languish in jails for years.
Pretrial service programs are run in many federal districts to determine the provision of pretrial release. They gather the necessary information related to the case and defendant, assess risks associated with the release (both to defendant and community), and also provide supervision to the defendant to ensure that the defendant complies with pretrial laws and reports regularly to the officers.
As Fydor Dostoevsky states in his novel Crime and Punishment, “If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment, as well as prison.” By making our criminal justice system more conscientious and less invasive, we are strengthening the values for which we strive, as a community.
Larry Nowak is the President of Bad Boys Bail Bonds in Salt Lake City, UT. He and the other agents work hard to ensure that nobody spends more time in jail then absolutely necessary. For more information on Larry and some of the other agents, please visit https://badboysbailbondsutah.com/about/