A Broken Bail System Keeps Americans Trapped Behind Bars

Bail is supposed to ensure people show up for their trial. In practice, our broken bail system keeps low-income and minority people trapped behind bars for weeks, months or even years without a conviction.

For wealthy or middle-income people, posting bail isn’t a problem. They either have the cash or can obtain a bail bond. Low-income people don’t have the money to buy freedom while they’re waiting for their trial.

Nine out of ten defendants who remain in jail before trial are there because they haven’t posted a bond. Low-income people may not be able to come up with even the small amount needed. Bond amounts for black men are 35 percent higher than white men, and Latino men’s bond amounts are 19 percent higher.

Being stuck in jail could mean losing a job, missing school or having your children taken away by social services. Those who are unable to post bail are more likely to be arrested again once they’re released.

Those trapped in jail without the resources to post bail are more likely to plead guilty, and are more likely to receive a harsher punishment.

Our broken bail system is expensive, too. Pretrial incarceration costs taxpayers $14 billion every year.

The problem is so bad that it has brought two diametrically opposed lawmakers together. Sen. Kamala Harris from California and Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky are working together on a bill that would help states reform their bail systems.

The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act gives states a framework for using evidence-based practices and risk assessments to decide which defendants truly need to be detained and which should not. These types of practices will help some defendants to keep their jobs, pay their bills and support their families, while allowing law enforcement to focus on keeping communities safe from those who are truly dangerous.

Without bail reform, criminal justice will continue to be two-tiered system that traps low-income people who can’t afford to buy their way out.

Click here to demand reform to our criminal justice system.

Author Generation Opportunity

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