1969 January 31

Nixon Endorses Preventive Detention – No Bail for “Dangerous” Offenders


Preventive detention, which allows judges to deny bail to allegedly “dangerous” criminal offenders, became an extremely popular crime control policy in the 1970s and was adopted by almost every state. The model for those state laws was the Washington, D.C., statute, championed by President Richard Nixon on this day as part of his “law and order” campaign. The Supreme Court upheld a federal preventive detention law in Salerno v. United States on May 26, 1987.

Preventive detention wiped out many of the gains achieved by the historic 1966 Bail Reform Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on June 22, 1966. The 1966 law created a presumption of release, and thereby ended the historic problem of defendants sitting in jail awaiting trial simply because they were poor and could not raise bail.

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