01 April 2019

Bail support: A review of the literature

This paper involved an examination of bail support practices, and evaluations and reviews of various programs and services, which allowed a set of best-practice principles for the implementation and operation of bail support programs to be identified. These principles apply to both programs targeting adults and those targeting children and young people. Best-practice principles suggest that bail support programs should: be voluntary, be timely and individualised, be holistic, addressing the full range of the individual’s criminogenic needs; be collaborative, using interagency approaches involving other government and nongovernment service providers; consistently apply a strong program philosophy program-wide; prioritise support over supervision, with response to, and treatment of an individual’s criminogenic needs emphasised over monitoring; be localised; have a court-based staffing presence; and be based on sound guidelines and processes that assist clients to engage with the structured processes of the courts and the requirements of court orders while maintaining program integrity. The implementation of bail support programs also poses a number of challenges. The foremost is perhaps the availability of suitable, affordable housing. The availability and accessibility of treatment programs and other services are integral to the provision of bail support. Limited treatment places, particularly outside metropolitan areas, may prevent clients from successfully completing bail programs. Evidence clearly demonstrates that bail support services are effective. These programs have contributed to reduced remand populations, reduced reoffending, and improved sentencing, and long-term outcomes for both accused persons and the criminal justice system.