The administration of bail in Fulton County, Georgia 1950-1978: an examination of the use of discretion in one aspect of criminal justice, 1980

Atlanta University and Clark Atlanta University Theses and Dissertations
The administration of bail in Fulton County, Georgia 1950-1978: an examination of the use of discretion in one aspect of criminal justice, 1980
Silver, Joseph Howard
Contributor to Resource:
Moss, Larry
Date of Original:
Degrees, Academic
Dissertations, Academic
United States, Georgia, Fulton County, Atlanta, 33.749, -84.38798
Degree Type: dissertation
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Date of Degree: 1980
Granting Institution: Atlanta University
Department/ School: Political Science
This dissertation is a study of the use of discretion in the bail system and also a study of the oppressive aspects of the bail system in the United States in general and Fulton County, Georgia in particular. Throughout the criminal justice system the fate of a greater number of lives is determined by the discretion of judicial authorities. These judicial authorities determine whether or not defendants will be incarcerated and if so, for how long. Often these judicial authorities are neither aware of nor sensitive to problems and frustrations of the defendants. Hence the discretion of judicial authorities might be detrimental to the defendant. Because of discretion in the bail-bonding system, men and women in American are held in jails and experience prison life for extended periods of time before their trials because they are not able to acquire bail. Often these people are found innocent of any wrong doing. The problems this study focuses upon are to determine if through the use of discretion bail is used as a tool of social control for political activists, whether or not bail for Black people is higher than that of white people committing the same and whether or not bail for males is higher than that of females committing the same crime. Also this study focuses upon whether or not bail is higher during periods of political and/or social disorder as compared to relatively stable periods in our society. This study was based upon primary data compiled from the files of the Fulton County Jail and the Atlanta Historical Society archives. Additionally, data were generated from the employment of three major research techniques. The techniques were interviewing, administering questionnaires and a survey of the literature. While conducting interviews, open ended questions were used in order to obtain meaningful responses from those persons being interviewed. The persons interviewed were judges, lawyers and bondsmen in Fulton County, Georgia. The files of the Fulton County Jail and the Atlanta Historical Society archives were surveyed to get an accurate account of bail given to defendants for certain crimes with data stratified as to race, age, occupation and sex of the defendants. The crimes surveyed were first offender cases of theft by taking, murder, rape, prostitution, and burglary. The Random Start Regular Interval method of collecting data was employed. In reviewing the literature, the libraries of Atlanta University, Atlanta Historical Society, Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw College, the Atlanta Public Library, and my personal library were most helpful. This study is composed of six chapters and a conclusion to empirically analyze the bail system in its functional processes and to gauge the impact of judicial discretion on the administration of bail. Chapter I presents the introduction, methodology and a review of the literature. In Chapter II, a historical analysis of the bail system is given. The origin of the present bail system is discussed and an explanation of the nature, purpose and use of bail is given. Methods of obtaining pretrial release are surveyed to determine how each method will benefit a certain segment of the population. Also, included in this chapter are Supreme Court Cases pertinent to bail and its administration to show the legal foundation upon which the bail system and bondsmen operate. Chapter III assesses the characteristics of recipients of bail. Here, a general discussion of bail and judicial discretion, as they relate to the poor, minorities and Black political activists is presented in an effort to measure the difference in bail administration if any exist. Case studies of the effects that the administration of bail and judicial discretion had on the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, and Hosea Williams are presented. Chapter IV is an analysis of the results of the questionnaires and interviews administered. The findings here are juxtaposed to that of the literature in hopes of supplementing material on the subject matter. Chapter V is an analysis of data collected from the Fulton County Jail Dockets and the files of the Fulton County Jail. The data are analyzed to determine if judicial discretion in the awarding of bail is evenly and justly administered to all people regardless of race, age, sex or occupation. The period covered is from 1950-1978. Chapter VI determines the relationship of social change and/or social disorder to change in the administration of bail. Primarily this section seeks to discover if through the use of judicial discretion bail is a tool of social control. The last part of this chapter is an analysis of the reaction of the bail system to social and political disorder. The final section of this research effort consists of the conclusion of this study. This study concludes that through judicial discretion, blacks, poor people, males and political activists are victimized and discriminated against in the administration of bail in Fulton County, Georgia in particular and the United States in general. It also concludes the present system of administering bail is not economically sound. It further concludes that bail is a means of social control and that bail has been used to drain funds and dis band politically active groups in the United States. A final conclusion of this study is that before racism, sexism and other types of discrimination are alleviated in the bail system, it has to first be alleviated from the entire society.
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Clark Atlanta University
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