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Across Pennsylvania, elected officials known as magisterial district judges (MDJs) set bail. Philadelphia is the one exception: appointed officials called arraignment court magistrates set bail. There are more than 500 MDJs who each oversee a small magisterial district in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Unlike judges who sit on other courts in Pennsylvania, MDJs do not have to be lawyers. The following interactive table show the 2016-2017 data for each county and individual judge.
In rural areas, small towns, and cities across Pennsylvania, MDJs determine people’s liberty. MDJs drive pretrial detention in Pennsylvania, but they are also at the crux of any potential reform. Pretrial detention as a result of cash bail could end today if MDJs followed the rules and set bail in amounts that people can afford.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania makes four recommendations for bail reform. First, MDJs must follow the law. Second, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts must promote transparency by analyzing bail data on a regular basis. Third, president judges must exercise supervisory authority over the MDJs whom they oversee. Fourth, courts and jails must work together to install safeguards that guarantee no person is incarcerated only because they are unable to pay bail.NEXT: county ProfileS