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​26th Judicial District’s New Bail Policy

3/1/2019

Mecklenburg CountyA judge or magistrate will always consider two factors when setting conditions of release -- safety to the community and the likelihood an individual will appear for court. The 26th Judicial District’s new policy continues to keep at the forefront the safety of the Mecklenburg County community and protecting the rights of the individual. What has been updated are the tools used to assist in the decision-making process. 

“There are people in every community who don’t need to be back out during the pendency of their cases. But the great majority of people do,” said Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Robert Bell, “Magistrates and Judges are encouraged to look at the facts of the case and the individual before them.” 

Bell, along with the Chief District Court Judge, District Court Judge Matt Osman, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Chief Magistrate, representatives from the Mecklenburg County Criminal Justice Services Department and a national consultant from the MacArthur Foundation have been reviewing the bail policy for over a year. The new policy eliminates the old bond table that suggested financial ranges for specific charges. And criminal justice leaders created an updated condition release matrix that is based on Pretrial Services data. 

Under North Carolina statute (G.S. 15A-534), the conditions of release options are a written promise to appear, unsecured bond, custody release, secured bond or secure bond with electronic monitoring. 

“We want to be smart about who is going to jail and who isn’t. Our new bail policy is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and North Carolina law,” said Chief District Court Judge Regan Miller, “We’re thankful to the MacArthur Foundation for helping us crunch the numbers and ensure it is empirically-based.” 

Pretrial Services is a division of Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services that assists the courts in making release-and-detention decisions that preserve public safety and defendants' civil rights. For the last two years, the agency along with the MacArthur Foundation has reviewed its pretrial risk-assessment tool. If a person is in the custody of pretrial services, they will be supervised. Supervision can vary from phone calls, office visits, drug testing and sending court date reminders. 

In 2017-2018 fiscal year, 96% of Mecklenburg County’s pretrial supervision program participants appeared for court and 81% did not get re-arrested, without requiring financial conditions of release. 

“Money bail allows someone with means to buy their freedom while poor and working-class people remain in jail because they can’t afford to pay,” said Sonya Harper, Criminal Justice Services director. “Our evidence-based and research supported practices have made Mecklenburg County a leader in thoughtful bail administration in the state and in the country.” 

The bail policy was last updated in 2014. To review the revised policy that takes effect Friday, March 1, 2019, click here

The mission of the North Carolina Judicial Branch is to protect and preserve the rights and liberties of all the people as guaranteed by the Constitutions and laws of the United States and North Carolina by providing a fair, independent, and accessible forum for the just, timely and economical resolution of their legal affairs. 

The mission of Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services is to lead data-driven decision-making, effective programming, and interagency collaboration to reduce criminal justice involvement and strengthen the well-being of our community.