The valid purposes of the pretrial justice system are to ensure that individuals appear at all proceedings to answer for the conduct that led to their arrest and prevent the individual from being re-arrested during the intervening period, particularly for a serious crime. However, the ubiquity of pretrial detention effectively flips the traditional order of the justice system in which most people assume the punishment occurs after conviction. In fact, in New York City, 46 percent of defendants
who did not make bail were not sentenced to incarceration, with about half never convicted and the other half receiving a non-custodial sentence such as probation.
Additionally, defendants detained pretrial are four times more likely to ultimately receive a jail sentence and three times more likely to ultimately receive a prison sentence compared with otherwise similar defendants who are released prior to trial. Significantly, the effect is even more pronounced among those assessed as low-risk. The terms of incarceration are also two to three times longer for those kept behind bars until their case is resolved. Reasons for these disparities could include: it is harder to coordinate a legal defense while behind bars, prosecutors have more leverage to secure a plea to their liking while the defendant is jailed, and once someone is successful on pretrial supervision it may make the judge more likely to find them a suitable candidate for probation.