Speech at Academy of Trial Lawyers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

June 1, 1964


Pittsburgh, PA

The legitimate purpose of bail is to ensure that defendants appear for trial. It has been distorted into systematic injustice. Every year thousands of persons are kept in jail for weeks and even months following arrest. They are not proven guilty. They may be innocent. They may be no more likely to flee than you or I. But they must stay in jail because, bluntly, they cannot afford to pay for their freedom. The present bail system exacts an incalculable human price. And it is an unnecessary price. Repeated recent studies demonstrate that there is little, if any, relationship between appearance at trial and ability to post bail. The pioneering work of the Vera Foundation in New York has disclosed that only 1 percent of persons released on a recognizance have failed to appear for trial. This compares with a 3 percent default rate for those out on bail.