America’s cash bail system forces cash-strapped people to choose between remaining incarcerated – and possibly losing their job, housing, or custody of their children – or entering an agreement with shady private lenders to pay for their freedom before their court date. Private lender agreements often require people to pay bail companies steep fees and can trigger high interest rates when a payment is late, pushing people already in financial distress further into debt. [...]
There has been an increasing public recognition that America’s bail system is broken: that a system of “justice” simply cannot operate with legitimacy when the dollars in a person’s pocket dictate whether a person who has not yet been found guilty of any crime is kept behind bars or forced into financial hardship in order to secure their freedom. Efforts to reform the pre-trial justice system are being advanced across the United States through litigation, federal, state and local legislation, judicial bodies, district attorneys, and state executive branches. Such reforms are both humane and smart policy. Studies have linked the pre-trial detention of people arrested for low- and moderate-level crimes to an increased likelihood of recidivism.
It’s time the United States government pursues an agenda to work for everybody, white, black and brown. That means advancing policies – including ending the use of cash bail – to ensure no person is detained or forced into crippling debt merely because they do not have the financial means to buy their way out of jail.