Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail

This is a national problem. Across the United States, most of the people incarcerated in local jails have not been convicted of a crime but are awaiting trial. And most of those are waiting in jail not because of any specific risk they have been deemed to pose, but because they can’t pay their bail.

In other words, we are locking people up for being poor. This is unjust. We should abolish monetary bail outright…

Some will argue that bail is necessary to prevent flight before trial, but there is no good basis for that assumption. For one thing, people considered to pose an unacceptable risk of flight (or violence) are not granted bail in the first place…

There is also evidence that bail is not necessary to ensure that people show up for trial. In Washington, D.C., a city that makes virtually no use of monetary bail, the vast majority of arrestees who are released pretrial do return to court, and rates of additional crime before trial are low…

People in jail face more pressure to accept plea bargains — often, ones that aren’t to their advantage — than do those confronting their charges from home.

Those who spend even a few days in jail can lose their jobs or housing during that time. Single parents can lose custody of their children. By exacerbating the effects of poverty, and by placing people in often traumatizing circumstances, pretrial incarceration may actually lead to more crime.

Bail also raises issues of racial injustice. A number of studies have shown that black defendants are assigned higher bail amounts than their white counterparts…

Other burdens of bail also fall harder on people of color. For instance, black mothers face a particularly serious risk of losing custody of their children while incarcerated, because they are excessively targeted by child protective services…

Jails disproportionately confine mentally ill people, too — rates of mental illness are four to six times higher in jail than outside — and people with mental health problems often live in economic circumstances that make it difficult to afford bail…

Finally, monetary bail is at odds with the legal ideal of the presumption of innocence. If we want to grant people this presumption, we must not punish them before their trials…

6 thoughts on “Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail

  1. Yes, a national problem. Let me share this;
    A young man answered my newspaper ad, and came to my business to apply. He had just got out of jail. He was incarcerated for 364 days. I gave him the job. He told me I had to fill out this form, and take money out of his check each week, and send it to the court to pay his child support. I did. For three weeks I sent that money, getting a receipt back from the court. On the fourth week, 3 deputies came to my business, arresting the young man. Taking him back to jail. I went to appear at his hearing. He was incarcerated yet again for one year. Now you may be thinking he was just some career criminal? Not at all! He was locked up because he didn’t pay his child support for the previous year… While he was in jail. A system that works against the poor, hurts families and children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There has to be something that fathers can do to help support their children that doesn’t include the money they need to live on. But leaving all that financial responsibility to the mother isn’t fair for anyone, especially the kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Too many people make money for them to abolish it – clear down to the suppliers of the commissary items. Since the people in the jails are largely lower income the hardship it causes makes their lives even more difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

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