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Legislation and Public Policy




This article considers racial disparities that occur nationally in the bail determination process, due in large part to the lack of uniformity, resources, and information provided to officials in bail proceedings. It argues that the almost unbridled decision making power afforded to bail officials is often influenced by improper considerations such as the defendant's financial resources or the race of the defendant. As a result of these failures, the bail determination process has resulted not only in racial inequalities in bail and pretrial detention decisions, but also in the over-incarceration of pretrial defendants and the overcrowding of jails nationwide. The article looks to the example of the ongoing work of criminal justice officials in Saint Louis County, Minnesota to address racial disparities in bail determinations in their county. In Saint Louis County, representatives from law enforcement, the court, and the community have taken a holistic approach to addressing the problems of the bail process including training, education, and continuing data collection. The experience of Saint Louis County provides a model for policy reform to reduce racial disparities not only in bail determinations, but the criminal adjudication process more generally.



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