Pennsylvania

Jails bursting, Philadelphia and other cities seek changes to troubling bail system

  • In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 photograph, Kareem Chappelle sits with his 2 month-old son Kwahli Chappelle, in their home in Philadelphia. When Chappelle forgot a court date, a bench warrant was issued, and Chappelle turned himself in the day before Thanksgiving. If he’d had $600 for bail, Chappelle could’ve gone home in time for the holiday. Instead, without the money, the first-time offender sat in jail for more than a month, missing Thanksgiving and Christmas with his girlfriend and two young sons. He also lost his home, his car and his job. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 photograph, Kareem Chappelle sits with his 2 month-old son Kwahli Chappelle, in their home in Philadelphia. When Chappelle forgot a court date, a bench warrant was issued, and Chappelle turned himself in the day before Thanksgiving. If he’d had $600 for bail, Chappelle could’ve gone home in time for the holiday. Instead, without the money, the first-time offender sat in jail for more than a month, missing Thanksgiving and Christmas with his girlfriend and two young sons. He also lost his home, his car and his job. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 photograph, Kareem Chappelle stands outside his home in Philadelphia. When Chappelle forgot a court date, a bench warrant was issued, and Chappelle turned himself in the day before Thanksgiving. If he’d had $600 for bail, Chappelle could’ve gone home in time for the holiday. Instead, without the money, the first-time offender sat in jail for more than a month, missing Thanksgiving and Christmas with his girlfriend and two young sons. He also lost his home, his car and his job. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 photograph, Kareem Chappelle stands outside his home in Philadelphia. When Chappelle forgot a court date, a bench warrant was issued, and Chappelle turned himself in the day before Thanksgiving. If he’d had $600 for bail, Chappelle could’ve gone home in time for the holiday. Instead, without the money, the first-time offender sat in jail for more than a month, missing Thanksgiving and Christmas with his girlfriend and two young sons. He also lost his home, his car and his job. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)  (The Associated Press)

More than 7,800 men and women sit in Philadelphia's overcrowded jails, three-quarters of them awaiting trial.

That's because they're detained under a bail system that critics call outmoded and one that cities and the White House are working to change.

A recent tally of the daily Philadelphia jail population showed hundreds of inmates including nonviolent and first-time offenders would be free if there were alternatives to bail.

It's a national issue that is increasingly seen as both a moral and economic imperative that puts a huge cost burden on municipal budgets.

Philadelphia has an ambitious goal of cutting the jail population by a third over the next three years.

On Thursday, the White House and Justice Department are meeting to discuss criminal justice practices, including in the bail system.