Philly court taps the bail agent to help with appearance rate
It has been three years since a series of articles ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer shining a spotlight on Philadelphia’s broken bail system. The expose cited one billion dollars of uncollected forfeited bail, nearly 50,000 long term bench warrants for failure to appear, witness intimidation and a criminal justice system bearing no teeth and largely ignored by criminal offenders.
Earlier this month, the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Administrative Governing Board, released Administrative Order No. 01 of 2012. The Administrative Order acknowledged a historical failure to appear rate of 30% among criminal defendants with cases in the Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court and more than 60,000 outstanding warrants for failure to appear overall. These are just a few elements that underscore the ineffectiveness of a one-size-fits-all Ten Percent Deposit Bail System and Taxpayer Funded Pretrial Release Program which had wandered beyond its original mandate, aiding the indigent criminal offender in obtaining release from jail, pretrial.
The reform and review period took nearly three years to complete and included countless hearings and meetings. Participating in these meetings along with court and local officials were American Bail Coalition Executive Director Dennis Bartlett and Lexington National President, Brian Frank, an ABC member. Dennis and Brian did an excellent job promoting the positive impact commercial bail would have on the chronic failure to appear problem in the City of Philadelphia. The most glaring shortcoming in the decades old system of deposit bail and the public pretrial system has been the absence of accountability. There has been zero incentive for the program administrators to perform and no penalty for failing to control the failure to appear rate and collection of forfeited deposit bail. Reinstating the use of commercial bail to the bond system in Philadelphia will have an immediate, substantial impact on the failure to appear rate and by extension a reduction in the number of outstanding bench warrants.
While additional work must be done to provide for a reasonable period of time to return fugitives (the law currently provides only 20 days), this is a great opportunity for the commercial bail industry to engage themselves in efforts to bring back a level of respect to the criminal justice system in the City of Philadelphia.
Thank you American Bail Coalition, specifically Dennis Bartlett and Brian Frank for their exhaustive efforts in bringing about positive change to the bail system of city of such historical significance.