More than a half-million inmates sitting in America’s jails not because they’re dangerous or a threat to society or because a judge thinks they will run, says National Public Radio. It’s not even because they are guilty; they haven’t been tried yet. They are there because they can’t make bail, sometimes as little as $50. Some wait behind bars for as long as a year before their cases make it to court. It costs taxpayers $9 billion this year to house them.
A bail process almost unique to the United States rewards the wealthy and punishes the poor. It exists almost solely to protect the interests of a powerful bail bonding industry. The result is that people with money get out. They go back to their jobs and their families, pay their bills and fight their cases. According to the Justice Department and national studies, those with money face far fewer consequences for their crimes. People without money stay in jail and are left to take whatever offer prosecutors feel like giving them.