Getting arrested can be a traumatic, upsetting experience for anyone. Most people hope that at the very least, the judge will release them on their own recognizance or they can make bail and go home while they wait for upcoming hearings. Going home can give people valuable time and opportunity to be with their families and take steps to improve their situation.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do this so they wind up waiting in jail. And according to a recent study in two cities, including Philadelphia, black defendants are more likely to await hearings in jail than white defendants are.

Racial bias among bail judges

According to the study, both black and white bail judges are more likely to assume a black defendant will commit another offense if released. The study suggests that judges base these assumptions on stereotypes that are inaccurate and exaggerated.

On the other hand, they are less likely to believe that a white defendant will re-offend, even though they may actually be more likely to do so.

As such, black defendants are more likely to stay in jail because they are not released on their own recognizance as often. For those who do have the option of paying bail, the amount is an average of $7,281 higher for black defendants.

Why this is so damaging

Having to stay in jail while awaiting legal proceedings can only make people’s situation worse. They can lose their jobs and fall behind on bills, which could leave them in debt and with few legitimate options to support themselves and their families after detention. Some get into more trouble behind bars; relationships with positive people in their lives can strain and break.

This is an important reminder that securing legal representation as soon as possible after an arrest in Pennsylvania is critical. An attorney can fight for reduced or no bail in addition to helping a person create a defense strategy.