Common Sense Law Enforcement

Historical Court Appearance Rates

Reformer District Attorney Larry Krasner has made it his mission to make law enforcement fairer, and one of his signature policies has been the elimination of cash bail.

Now the numbers are in, and they validate his approach:

One year ago, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office would no longer seek money bail for a list of offenses that make up 61 percent of all cases in the Philadelphia criminal justice system.

On Tuesday, Krasner, along with Mayor Jim Kenney, City Council members and the Defender Association of Philadelphia, held a news conference to outline the impact of the reform.

“What we had a year ago was not fair. We do not, we should not, imprison people for poverty,” Krasner said. By the district attorney’s count, 1,750 additional defendants were released without bail during 2018, with no increase in recidivism.

Krasner added that he believes the policy is making Philadelphia safer in the long term: “When you don’t tear apart people’s lives, and when you keep them in contact with the things that keep them on course, they are less likely to commit crimes in the future.”

The district attorney’s claims are in part backed up by a study published this week that found the policy shift resulted in a 22 percent decline in the number of defendants who spent at least one night in jail. However, there was no impact on longer jail stays.


“We find no effect on failure to appear [in court], on violent offending, or on recidivism,” [Penn State criminologist Aurelie] Ouss [one of the study’s authors] said.

According to the First Judicial District, Philadelphia defendants’ court-appearance rate in 2018 was the highest it has been in a decade, nearly 97 percent in Common Pleas Court and 87.5 percent in Municipal Court.

Tough on crime policing is dumb on crime policing.

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