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Judicial task force and Washington auditor release bail reform reports

Neil Conway

On a typical day in Washington state, 14,500 people are sitting in county jails, 6,500 awaiting trial. If pretrial services in lieu of bail were expaned, according to a report from the Washington State Auditor Office, the state could save up to $12 million a year. The performance audit on bail alternatives comes out as the Washington Pretrial Reform Task Force releases its recommendations for bail reform. The judicial task force was headed by state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, who said in a press release that the goal was “to reinforce the constitutional presumption of innocence and our court rules that assume pretrial release.”


One problem with the current bail system, as the task force sees it, is equity. People of color and those who are poor often sit in jail because they can’t afford bail, which can result in the loss of a job or home. The task force lists 19 recommendations for bail reform. The list includes everything from better use of risk assessment tools to providing pretrial services, such as a text messaging to remind people of their court dates.


Allowing more electronic home monitoring also is an option, but the report recommends that it be funded by the government. Currently, the defendant is required to pay and King County Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell says that means people remain in jail if they can’t afford it. “That really puts them in an unfair, inequitable spot,” he said.


Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.