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Bail no longer condition of pre-trial release for juveniles

January 5, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Juveniles awaiting trial in Orleans Parish will no longer be detained simply because their families can’t afford to post bond.

New Orleans Juvenile Court judges, in a statement, said they voted in December to get rid of imposing bail as a condition of pre-trial release.

Young offenders now will be released on their parents’ recognizance, unless there is “an established likelihood of failure to appear,” or if the alleged offender is a danger to themselves or others, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reported .

“Eliminating bail is as much about reducing the youth detention population and addressing racial disparities in juvenile justice as it is about financial issues,” Chief Judge Candice Anderson said in the release. “Orleans Parish Juvenile Court is committed to ensuring accountability and public safety, but lack of money cannot be a factor in determining whether a child is held in detention pre-trial.”

The new policy took effect Dec. 19.

It is the court’s second major policy change in five months. In July, the judges officially ended the practice of charging fees to families with children in the juvenile system. Those included fees for probation supervision, public defenders and medical exams.

Judges said at the time the fines and fees undermine two main goals of the juvenile justice system: rehabilitation and public safety.

According to their press release, “the court is committed to eliminating policies that base personal liberty on financial ability rather than likelihood to appear in court or the potential for future delinquent behavior.”

The city recently implemented a pre-trial risk-based assessment tool, which provides judges with personal and criminal history for each person arrested. Arrestees are given a score that a judge can use to determine an appropriate bail amount.

It went into effect around the same time U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon ruled Orleans Parish Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell was violating the constitutional rights of people who appeared before him for initial bond hearings. Fallon ordered Cantrell must inquire into a person’s ability to post bond and must consider alternative conditions of release.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed against Cantrell by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Civil Rights Corps in 2017, over what they said was his practice of setting high bail amounts without considering a person’s ability to pay.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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