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The Appeal Cites Lauryn Gouldin in Bail Reform Article

Posted on Wednesday 1/9/2019
Lauryn Gouldin

The Failure to Appear Fallacy

(The Appeal.org | Jan. 9, 2018) When the judge set his bail at $3,000, Jonathan Broad*, 57, thought “All I want is to die free—not in jail.”

Broad was arrested in March 2016 and convicted of “criminal possession of a controlled substance.” When he appeared before the judge shortly after his arrest, he was unemployed and living in a homeless shelter in New York City and suffered from congestive heart failure, diabetes, and asthma. He could not pay the bail. A stint in jail, Broad knew, could be a death sentence.

Bail is not supposed to impose capital punishment, nor is it even supposed to be punitive. The institution of bail traces its history to medieval England, where it was meant to ensure that individuals charged with crimes didn’t evade justice. Since then, however, cash bail has transformed into a de facto form of pretrial incarceration, often for people who have simply been accused of low-level offenses, such drug or property crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly half a million people sit in jail waiting for trial nationwide, the vast majority of whom would be free if not for their inability to afford bail ...

... Court dates can drag out over months and even years, requiring a person who faces charges to return multiple times. Many courts are only open during weekday office hours, when many people find it most difficult to take time off from work.

In fact, the percentage of FTAs resulting from defendants absconding is exceedingly low, notes Syracuse University College of Law professor Lauryn Gouldin, author of a 2018 law review article on flight risk.

The largest study on court appearances to date, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics between 1990 and 2004 in 40 of the 75 largest U.S. counties, found that more than three quarters of defendants showed up for all of their court dates. Of the minority that missed at least one hearing, 94 percent appeared in court within a year after their missed court date.

Nevertheless, in many jurisdictions, FTA rates make no distinction between a person who arrives five minutes late for a hearing and one who flees the country.  

“That seems like a real flaw to me,” Gouldin told The Appeal. “Every non-appearance is treated the same, making more innocuous, preventable non-appearances seem more risky.”

Meanwhile, an increasing number of studies show that FTA rates can be drastically reduced by simply redesigning confusing summons notices and sending text message reminders. A January 2018 University of Chicago study found that FTA rates dropped by almost a third (32 percent) one month after New York City implemented these changes ...

Read the full article.