Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Atlanta University (AU)

Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Larry Moss


This thesis is a study of the oppressive aspects of the bail system in the United States in general and Fulton County, Georgia in particular. Men and women in America are held in jails and committed to prison life for prolonged 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 problem this study focuses upon is to determine whether or not bail is used as a weapon against the poor, the black and political activists. This study was based upon primary data compiled from the files of the Fulton County Jail. Additionally data was 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. Basically the same format was used for all interviews.

The sample population was selected mainly from the Fulton County area for both the interviews and the questionnaire. For the questionnaire, the Likert Scale (also called the Summated Scale) was used. This scale provided for the range of response to any given question to be limited to the research question.

The files of Fulton County Jail 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 defendant. The crimes surveyed were first of fender cases of murder, armed robbery, theft by taking, prostitution, burglary, and rape.

The Random Start Regular Interval method of collecting data was employed. Every fourth defendant charged with one of the above crimes was picked for review. This procedure was carried out until enough defendants were collected to make a worthwhile comparative study.

In reviewing the literature and conducting library research, libraries in the Metro-Atlanta area were used. The libraries of Emory University, Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Public Libraries, and my personal library were most helpful.

This study is composed of four chapters and a conclusion. Chapter I presents the introduction, methodology, and a review of the literature.

Chapter II gives a historical analysis of the bail system in the United States. The origins of the present bail system is unfolded for the benefit of my readers. Also, in this chapter, an explanation of the nature, purpose, and use of bail is given. Bail was designed to assure that the accused appear for his day in court. However, there are other uses of bail and they are discussed in this chapter. Methods of obtaining pretrial release are surveyed to determine how each method benefits a certain segment of the population. Supreme Court cases pertinent to bail and its administration are included to show the legal foundation upon which the bail system and bondsmen operates.

Chapter III concerns itself with those people benefitting from the administration of bail as well as those people that are victimized from the same. Historical data of bail awarded to Angela Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., members of the Black Panther Party, and civil rights demonstrators is presented to show how the system can manipulate bail for the purpose of detaining certain defendants whose ideas are contrary to the status quo.

Chapter IV is a case study of Fulton County, Georgia's administration of bail from June 1974 to June 1976. The purpose of this case study was to determine if certain segments of the population are discriminated against in regards to the awarding of bail. The findings in the case study were juxtaposed to that of the literature for a comparative analysis.

The final section of this research effort consists of the conclusion of the study. This study concludes that poor people, black and political activists are victimized and discriminated against by the administration of bail in Fulton County, Georgia, in particular, and the United States in general. It further concludes that should a person be detained before trial (because he cannot afford bail), his earning capacity is completely terminated. However, the economic impact does not stop here because his family also suffers. Finally, the study determined that bail set purposely high drained funds of the Black Panther Party and other politically unpopular groups thereby inducing financial instability within these groups and severely hampering their operations.