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Alaska Ends Cash Bail System

Inmates in Alaska are no longer tasked with posting bail to get out of jail, courtesy of a state senate bill that took effect January 1st. Instead, judges will use the accused's criminal history to determine whether they should be released before trial, according to a summary of the changes published in the Juneau Empire.

The new system will assign each inmate two grades, one that reflects the likelihood that they fail to make a court appearance, and another that reflects the likelihood of recidivism. An official from Alaska's Division of Corrections tabulates that score upon arrest—factoring in the offender's criminal history—and delivers it to the judge, defender, and prosecutor.

The state will then release the accused (potentially with conditions, like supervision) or order them to remain in jail until trial.

Supporters of the measure, which passed in the state senate in 2016 but did not go into effect until the new year, argue that cash bail further punishes those who are too poor to post it. Nearly half a million people are sitting in county jails because they can't afford their bail, and research indicates that cash bail systems increase the likelihood of a guilty verdict, and make the convicted more likely to re-commit a crime.