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

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.



Arts & Sciences News

Michael C. Horowitz Awarded Department of Defense Grant to Lead Team on Study of Autonomous Systems and AI

Michael C. Horowitz, Professor of Political Science, will oversee the study of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.

View Article >
Earthquakes at the Nanoscale

In collaboration with Robert Carpick and David Goldsby, Tian, who graduated from Penn in 2017 with a doctorate in physics, recently published a paper in Physical Review Letters which attempts to tackle these devastating natural phenomena by investigating the laws of friction at the smallest possible scale, the nanoscale.

View Article >
Doris Wagner Named Robert I. Williams Term Professor

A leader in the fields of plant biology, chromatin modification, and epigenetics, Wagner’s research focuses on understanding at the molecular level the complex changes that occur when an organism switches developmental programs.

View Article >
Wrongful Convictions Reported for 6 Percent of Crimes

A study from Penn criminologists results in the first general estimate for the prison population as a whole.

View Article >
Race Has a Place in Human Genetics Research, Philosopher Argues

Penn philosopher Quayshawn Spencer says there is a racial classification that’s medically useful to reliably sample human genetic diversity.

View Article >
Exploring the Sounds of the Middle Ages

Assistant Professor of Music Mary Channen Caldwell's freshman seminar course, “Hearing (in) the Middle Ages,” explores a range of sounds heard throughout the medieval period, whether produced by people, instruments, bells, or animals.

View Article >