What Americans Think about Bail

In 2018, a national survey asked Americans what they thought of our pretrial justice systems. Their responses? Strong support for expanded pretrial release. The survey was done by a bipartisan team of pollsters on behalf of Pew Charitable Trusts. See The Pew Charitable Trusts, Americans Favor Expanded Pretrial Release, Limited Use of Jail (2018). Here are my top six take-aways from the survey, along with related survey data, explanatory text and graphs, which come directly from the Pew report (all attribution to Pew).

  1. A large majority of Americans supported using citations in lieu of arrest for nonviolent crimes.
  2. A large majority of Americans said that pretrial detention shouldn’t be allowed for minor crimes like trespassing and public drunkenness.
  3. A large majority of Americans supported pretrial release for people charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes.

  4. Most Americans supported pretrial release for people whose likelihood of completing the pretrial period without a new arrest is as low as 70%.
  5. Most Americans said that money bail does not keep communities safe.

  6. A majority of Americans supported spending more taxpayer money on treatment programs and victim services and less on jail for people who pose little public safety risk.