30 Years of Bail Jumpers Owe Philly $1B
Outstanding payments date back to the 1970s
By Laurel Jorgensen,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2009 7:33 PM CST
District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham wrote to the mayor of Philadelphia a decade ago about the bail problem, saying that it "makes a mockery of the bail system."   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Criminal defendants who skipped court dates in Philadelphia owe the city a total of $1 billion, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. For decades, the city has done little to try to collect full bail payments from those who don’t show. Critics say the system is farcical. “Bail judgments just aren’t paid off unless something miraculous happens,” said a court administrator. Adds another: "It's a nasty process to collect."

New York and other cities expect 100% up front, prompting many defendants to go through private bail firms. In Philadelphia, courts do little to ensure people's ability to pay, critics say, and city lawyers don't go after the money. Prompted by the Inquirer, Philly has hired a collection agency to pursue the money—as the mayor pushes for a $1 billion cut in the city’s 5-year spending plan.