The judges who oversee the courts in Guilford County on Wednesday, Jan. 16 announced a new policy on setting bonds that should reduce the number of people in the Guilford County jails.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge John Craig and Chief District Court Judge Teresa Vincent for the 18th Judicial District (which is Guilford County) announced that they have revised the recommended bond guidelines so that defendants charged with minor, non-violent crimes should not be given cash or secured bonds.

The purpose of a bond is not to punish the individual charged with a crime since they have not been convicted, but it is to assure that the defendant will show up in court.

According to the press release, “In many, if not most cases, the defendant is now given a cash or secured bond where the defendant is required to put up money or property to be held by the clerk, until the case is concluded.”

When the defendant does not have the required amount in in cash or property, a bail bondsman can be hired who will post the bond usually for payment of a percentage of the bond amount.

However, if the defendant doesn’t have the cash or property and can’t afford to hire a bail bondsman, that defendant must remain in jail until their case is decided.

The press release states, “The judges recognize that this unfairly impacts persons with limited or no means and burdens the county with incarcerating hundreds of inmates in a year’s time awaiting trial on many cases for which they would not receive an active jail sentence even if they were convicted. Working with all the agencies involved with criminal justice, the judges intend to implement several changes that will address this issue. In other jurisdictions where these changes have been implemented, there have been significant taxpayer savings by reducing jail populations without any measurable – and even instances of decrease – in crime.”

The changes are for minor and nonviolent crimes and will not affect the policy on those charged with serious and violent crimes where the safety of the public is the top priority.

The Guilford County jail in Greensboro has a maximum occupancy of 1,028 and in 2019 the average daily population was 697. Since this new policy should reduce the number of people in the jail, that figure should drop significantly in 2020, and some people might begin to wonder about the reasoning behind building such a large jail.