Get Out of Jail Free: Taxpayer-Funded Grants Place Criminals on the Street Without Posting Bail

For fiscal year 2012, the House Appropriations Committee recommended $357 million for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program (H.R. 2596). Byrne JAG grants, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), can be used by state and local governments for 29 broad criminal justice purposes, including funding pretrial release services.

The original mission of pretrial release services during the 1960s was to assist in the release of the relatively few indigents who truly could not afford to post bail. However, the mission of too many pretrial services agencies has expanded beyond helping indigents to defendants who would normally secure release through private bond agents. These individuals are released on their own recognizance without offering anything of value to ensure that they return on their court dates. This, in turn, will most assuredly result in more criminals failing to appear in court and becoming fugitives from justice.