Thomas Stepien spent four days in a Lyndhurst, Oh., jail in April on a drunken jaywalking charge. Stepien’s friend, who was arrested at the same time and charged with the same crimes, was released within hours, Cleveland.com reports. Why the unequal treatment? The friend had access to the $700 he needed for bail. Stepien, 23, said he had only $50 and was forced to wait until the Wednesday after his Saturday arrest to see a judge. Cleveland.com is telling Stepien’s story as part of a Justice For All, a series that highlights the discriminatory nature of bail systems in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County and features other courts that have made their systems fairer.
Defendants who are poor often can’t make bail, while those of greater wealth are able to put up the money for their release. Cleveland.com is publishing vignettes about some of the people who have languished in jail because of their inability to make bail. One was accused of stealing underwear, another of drunken jaywalking. Yet another was accused of failing to appear in court to explain why he could not make payments to the court. Bail-reform advocates contend that all three could have been freed after their arrests without endangering the public.