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Less Alaskans charged with crimes to pay bail: Bail system changed

JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska is starting the new year with a change in the way the state handles criminal bail.

People charged with a crime will no longer have to pay money to get out of jail before their trial, the Juneau Empire reported .

Starting Monday, the state will evaluate each individual under a point system that considers how likely they are to show up to court appearances or commit a new crime.

The change means more people will be out of jail with supervision, said Nancy Meade, general counsel of the Alaska Court System to the assembled attorneys.

It also means the state won't have to pay for jail time.

The individuals who qualify will also be allowed to work.

The change has been the works for almost two years. Lawmakers passed the bill in 2016.

Under the previous system, individuals could be not released from jail prior to their trial until they paid a bail amount set by a judge.

Defendants from poorer areas were more likely to stay in jails, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Alaska Judicial Council.

The study also found that white, Hispanic and Asian defendants were more likely to be released before trial than black or Native defendants.

Further studies determined that keeping nonviolent offenders in jail increases their chances of reoffending.

"This should enhance public safety and fairness and the credibility of the justice system," said Quinlan Steiner, the state's top public defender.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com