Interim Report: Judicial District 21 Bail Project
In January 2020, North Carolina’s Twenty-First Judicial District (Forsyth County) implemented a consensus bail reform initiative in the form of a structured decision-making tool for magistrates and judges when making bail decisions. Some key features of the tool include:
- creating a presumption for a condition other than a secured bond for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors;
- providing screening factors to identify individuals charged with Class 1 and A1 misdemeanors and Class F-I felonies who can safety be released pretrial;
- affording no special presumption or screening for those charged with Class A-E felonies; and
- embedding within the decision-making process the statutory requirement that conditions other than a secured bond must be imposed absent a risk of non-appearance, injury to any person, or interference with the criminal proceeding.
The new decision-making tool was developed by a stakeholder team that included judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks, magistrates, law enforcement leaders, and others. One of the working group’s primary goals was to reduce pretrial detentions of individuals who do not pose a pretrial risk but are detained solely due to inability to pay bail. The UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab supported stakeholders in the development and implementation of the new tool and, with support from local stakeholders, is conducting an empirical evaluation of its impact. We recently released a report (here) from the first year of the evaluation. This post summarizes key findings.