Some say its long overdue, but with jails becoming more crowded and approaching capacity, it might be the right time to seriously look at how bail is assigned for accused criminals. Currently, many offenders remain in jail due to an inability to pay bail. Under some of the proposals, bail status will be determined by the threat that an accused offender poses to the public. That threat is assessed by means of a risk assessment test.

Some counties already use this sort of a system. Placer County, for instance, implemented the system last year. The results were instantaneous. In 2007, the County released 4,700 convicts from custody early due to overcrowding. Last year, that number dropped to 480.

But some say that the tests are educated guesses and the risks are great. If a judge guesses wrong based upon the test, then someone would get hurt.

In Maryland, one county has used this system for more than a decade and has actually been able to prevent millions of dollars from being spent on new beds.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Some California counties are changing long-held policies about who must remain in jail while awaiting trial, allowing judges to free criminal defendants based not on whether they can afford bail but whether they’re a risk to public safety.

Public policy experts say the shift is overdue, given the crowded conditions at many county jails and a new law that is filling them with convicts who in the past would have served time in state prisons.

Read the full article here.