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The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization

Author

Listed:
  • Arpit Gupta
  • Christopher Hansman
  • Ethan Frenchman

Abstract

In the United States, roughly 450,000 people are detained awaiting trial on any given day, typically because they have not posted bail. Using a large sample of criminal cases in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, we analyze the consequences of the money bail system by exploiting the variation in bail-setting tendencies among randomly assigned bail judges. Our estimates suggest that the assignment of money bail leads to a 12 percent increase in the likelihood of conviction and a 6-9 percent increase in recidivism. Our results highlight the importance of credit constraints in shaping defendant outcomes and point to important fairness considerations in the institutional design of the American money bail system.

Suggested Citation

  • Arpit Gupta & Christopher Hansman & Ethan Frenchman, 2016. "The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 471-505.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:doi:10.1086/688907
    DOI: 10.1086/688907
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Anna Aizer & Joseph J. Doyle, 2015. "Juvenile Incarceration, Human Capital, and Future Crime: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 759-803.
    2. David S. Abrams & Chris Rohlfs, 2011. "Optimal Bail And The Value Of Freedom: Evidence From The Philadelphia Bail Experiment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(3), pages 750-770, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Amanda Agan & Matthew Freedman & Emily Owens, 2017. "Is Your Lawyer a Lemon? Incentives and Selection in the Public Provision of Criminal Defense," Working Papers 613, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    2. Will Dobbie & Jacob Goldin & Crystal S. Yang, 2018. "The Effects of Pretrial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(2), pages 201-240, February.
    3. David Arnold & Will Dobbie & Crystal S. Yang, 2017. "Racial Bias in Bail Decisions," Working Papers 611, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    4. Mark L. Egan & Gregor Matvos & Amit Seru, 2018. "Arbitration with Uninformed Consumers," NBER Working Papers 25150, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jon Kleinberg & Himabindu Lakkaraju & Jure Leskovec & Jens Ludwig & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2018. "Human Decisions and Machine Predictions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(1), pages 237-293.
    6. Will Dobbie & Jacob Goldin & Crystal Yang, 2016. "The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges," NBER Working Papers 22511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Megan T Stevenson, 2018. "Distortion of Justice: How the Inability to Pay Bail Affects Case Outcomes," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(4), pages 511-542.
    8. David Arnold & Will Dobbie & Crystal S. Yang, 2017. "Racial Bias in Bail Decisions," NBER Working Papers 23421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Brigham R. Frandsen & Lars J. Lefgren & Emily C. Leslie, 2019. "Judging Judge Fixed Effects," NBER Working Papers 25528, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Will Dobbie & Jacob Goldin & Crystal Yang, 2016. "The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges," Working Papers 601, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    11. Campbell, Christopher M. & Labrecque, Ryan M. & Weinerman, Michael & Sanchagrin, Ken, 2020. "Gauging detention dosage: Assessing the impact of pretrial detention on sentencing outcomes using propensity score modeling," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    12. Sloan, Carly Will & Naufal, George S & Caspers, Heather, 2018. "The Effect of Risk Assessment Scores on Judicial Behavior and Defendant Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 11948, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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