Stop Presumptions Against Bail!

HB1365 would reinstate presumptions against bail, making detention the unfair default for many people.

Presumptions against bail unconstitutionally shift the burden to individuals to prove why they should be released, often without the assistance or advice of an attorney. Presumptions against bail were repealed in 2021, returning decisions about pretrial release to judges and magistrates who are able to consider cases on an individual level.

Presumptions against bail led to many people being denied freedom despite having not been found guilty of any crime. Holding people in jail pretrial can lead to bigger issues like loss of employment, housing instability, and family destabilization, and is costly for taxpayers. Research has shown that those who face presumptions are no more likely to reoffend before trial than those accused of other offenses.

Contact  Senate Judiciary Committee members here to tell them to oppose HB1365 and keep presumptions against bail from being reinstated!

In December 2021 the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission released data from the Pretrial Data Project’s first cohort from October 2017. This is the latest data on how Virginia’s pretrial system actually functions.

Ariel BenYishay, Associate Professor of Economics at the College of William & Mary, analysed this data and produced a report of his findings (released on 1/24/23).

These are the key findings:

  • More people were subjected to presumptions against bail than many assumed. At least 9.5% of all those charged and possibly over 30% of all those charged.
  • The data does not support that those facing presumptions against bail were more likely to be involved in criminal activity while awaiting trial. In fact, those facing presumptions, regardless of how high their risk assessment score is, were no more likely to reoffend than those not facing presumptions.
  • Despite there being no increase in risk, those facing presumptions are much less likely to be released pretrial. While 83% percent of those charged were released when presumptions were not involved, only 50% of those facing presumptions were released. Even those with the lowest risk assessment score were more likely to be held if facing a presumption
  • The presence of presumptions (prior to 2021) likely cost at least $65 million in additional jail operating costs (with at least $23M of that borne by the Commonwealth budget) and created significant unmeasured burdens on defendants, their families, and communities, without improving public safety.
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