Boots and Bail on the Ground: Assessing the Implementation of Misdemeanor Bail Reforms in Georgia
63 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020
Date Written: July 10, 2020
This Article presents a mixed-methods study of misdemeanor bail practice across Georgia in the wake of reform. We observed bail hearings and interviewed system actors in a representative sample of fifty-five counties in order to assess the extent to which pretrial practice conforms to legal standards clarified in Senate Bill 407 and Walker v. Calhoun. We also analyzed jail population data published by county jails and by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. We found that a handful of counties have made promising headway in adhering to law and best practices, but that the majority have some distance to go. Most counties assessed do not assure a bail hearing within forty-eight hours of arrest, provide counsel at the initial bail hearing, consistently evaluate arrestees' financial circumstances, or guarantee release within forty-eight hours of arrest for those who cannot pay bail. In a combined eighteen counties, 37% of misdemeanor arrestees remained in jail for at least three days after arrest. In DeKalb County, 53% of all those arrested on misdemeanor charges between 2000 and 2019 were jailed for three days or more, but the annual rate has declined from 63% in 2009 to 26.5% in 2019. Per capita, pretrial detention rates varied widely by county in 2019, with most of the higher rates in the southern portion of the state. Overall, the qualitative and quantitative data demonstrate both progress and substantial variation by county.
Keywords: criminal justice, bail reform, bail, criminal justice reform, misdemeanor bail, Georgia
JEL Classification: K14, K41, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation