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Crime File: Out on Bail

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This video cassette, number 5 in the Crime File series, portrays a 3-member panel discussing the rate of rearrests among persons on pretrial release, features of the 1984 Federal bail law designed to prevent the pretrial release of dangerous persons, ways to reduce rearrests of pretrial releasees, and constitutional issues raised by preventive detention.
Panelist Jeffrey Harris, former director of the President's Task Force on Violent Crime, explains provisions of the 1984 Federal bail law. He pays particular attention to the structured hearing procedures for determining an arrestee's dangerousness and likelihood of appearing for trial, which findings in turn determine whether or not the arrestee is detained prior to trial. Harris argues that this law provides an effective balance between protecting the public from dangerous arrestees during the pretrial period and ensuring that the arrestee is given a fair pretrial release hearing. Panelist James H. McComas of the Public Defender Service, Washington, D.C., argues that preventive detention constitutes punishment prior to conviction and should be declared unconstitutional. Panelist Martin Sorin, who has conducted studies of pretrial rearrest rates and the impact of various bail policies on rearrests, favors making a rearrest a violation of pretrial release conditions, which would warrant pretrial detention. He argues against trying to predict dangerousness in the initial pretrial release decision. McComas counters that a rearrest does not constitute a conviction and should therefore not be a basis for punishing an arrestee with detention.

Date Published: January 1, 1984