Students Win Penn Public Policy Challenge With Proposed Tweak to Philadelphia Bail Payment System

March 10, 2014

An innovative proposal for the Philadelphia County prison system won this year’s Fels Institute of Government’s Penn Public Policy Challenge. A team of graduate students created the project, which advocates for the adoption of an online bail payment system. 

The BetterBAIL team triumphed over four others in the final round of the competition on March 2 to win a $5,000 grand prize. They will move on to compete in the National Invitational Public Policy Challenge on March 23 at the National Constitution Center.

The purpose of the Public Policy Challenge, now in its fifth year, is to provide a forum for students to develop actionable policy ideas. To win, proposals must not only have the potential to positively impact the city, they must include concrete steps to be taken for the project’s successful implementation.

The BetterBAIL team members are graduate students are Sabrina Maynard of Fels, Laura Buckley and Cherlyn Lim in the School of Social Policy and Practice, and Yosha Gunasekera of the Law School.

The aim of the BetterBAIL proposal is the development of a cost-effective and straightforward way to reduce the number of pretrial inmates in Philadelphia County. The team drew on existing online bail payment system that is currently in use in Erie, Chester, Westmoreland, and Delaware Counties. The full proposal is available here.

This year’s edition of the University-wide competition drew more than 40 students, representing seven of Penn’s 12 schools. The semi-final round in January winnowed the field of teams from 10 to five.

More information about this story is available here and here.