Philly City Controller Caught Cooking the Books – Report on Abolishing the City’s Cash Bail System Riddled with Errors
A coalition of Philadelphia criminal justice officials is slamming City Controller Alan Butkovitz, claiming his office’s recent report on abolishing the city’s cash bail system is riddled with errors. However, Butkovitz stands by the October report, which indicated the city could save $75 million a year if it eliminated cash bail entirely. Leaders from Philadelphia’s criminal justice apparatus claimed Butkovitz’s office didn’t reach out to key criminal justice stakeholders for accurate information before publishing the report that concluded the current cash bail system in Philadelphia should be dismantled. Julie Wertheimer, the city’s chief of staff for criminal justice, stated:
They pulled data that was completely outdated, used national assumptions that are not necessarily relevant to Philadelphia and incorrectly pulled and interpreted Philadelphia data and didn’t bother to verify it with anybody.
Officials who work on criminal justice reform daily, mostly through the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge grant aimed at drastically reducing the city’s jail population, claim the controller’s data was in some cases not properly contextualized and in other cases incorrect. The controller’s report bases a significant portion of its savings calculations on the number of inmates being held pretrial, how long those inmates are typically held, and how much it costs to keep those inmates incarcerated. Around 64 percent of the inmates in Philadelphia’s prison system are being held pretrial, a number the controller’s office received from the Department of Prisons, per an email correspondence provided to Billy Penn. However, that figure is missing context when it comes to dealing with cash bail, because a high number of those pretrial inmates are on at least one detainer, meaning they’re not eligible for bail. The criminal justice officials who were critical of the controller’s report believe it’s really more like 30 percent of inmates are held pretrial, but only 25 percent are on cash bail.
California can definitely learn from the issues in Philadelphia in regards to potentially ending the monetary bail system. There has been no accurate claim about how much California could save if the monetary bail system is ended and there has been no mention about how much the pretrial risk assessment system that is planned will cost the state. California has a large population and people such as Bob Hertzberg and Rob Bonta want to bring in a pretrial system that is being used by places that have a smaller population such as New Jersey, Kentucky, and New Mexico. The smaller the population, the more manageable things are, however, the places that have ended the monetary bail system and replaced it with a risk assessment system are having substantial issues. California cannot afford to make the same mistakes they did in the places that ended monetary bail.