Risk Assessment Algorithms: The Answer to an Inequitable Bail System?

May 7, 2018

Debate over pretrial detention began long before ratification of the Eighth Amendment, tracing its roots to the early English bail system. Despite this, approaches to the system have largely remained stagnant since passage of the Bail Reform Act of 1984, which contains a series of procedural directives that model bailsetting practices for the majority of jurisdictions today. However, many courts have begun to insinuate that the current methods represent a flawed, archaic, and biased system—burdening both defendants and the community. A rise in the use of algorithms in other areas of the criminal justice system has led some jurisdictions, including Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, to abandon traditional procedures in favor of data-driven risk assessment tools, yielding promising results for the future of bail reform.