Last month, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that judges must take into account a defendant’s financial resources when setting bail. The original intent of bail was to be sure a defendant returned to court, but in today’s environment, where approximately 97 percent of criminal cases are settled with plea bargain agreements, the setting of bail that people cannot pay, serves to guarantee more convictions.
When one is incarcerated pretrial, one is more likely to accept a plea, and a criminal conviction, in order to go home.
It is unclear what the impact will be for this ruling. The practice of bail will continue, and the court can use it when their is a flight risk. Dangerousness hearings are also part of Massachusetts law, so that defendants deemed a danger to the public can be retained pretrial. At this time the Mass Bail Fund is meeting with others to determine what kind of monitoring can be done to determine compliance with the new ruling.
See more here about the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling.
–Submitted by Louellyn Lambros of Scituate, an EMIT CORE member.