By Dustin Slaughter
Bail owed by defendants who never appeared for scheduled court appearances – totaling nearly $1 billion – is now cancelled, reports Dylan Purcell of The Inquirer.
The debt forgiveness is for outstanding balances stemming from cases before March 3rd, 2010. Further:
The order applies only to defendants who skipped bail: 61,000 bench warrants issued as far back as 50 years. Defendants are still on the hook for fines not paid and restitution not made.
The city requested the First Judicial District dissolve outstanding balances, after a series of articles The Inquirer published four years ago, according to the newspaper. The series uncovered an “ineffective bail system” that lacked accountability measures for defendants who skipped court and failed to pay their bail balance.
In early 2011, the First Judicial District launched an initiative to collect these debts; a report on these reform efforts found that debts older than 2010 would likely not be recoverable, finding that “a large portion of the outstanding debt realistically will never be collected.” The court system’s efforts were further frustrated by a 70% unemployment rate among defendants.