Los Angeles Study Finds $19 Billion Levied in Money Bail Between 2012-2016

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Bail bond office in Los Angeles. Photo by Laurie Avocado via Flickr

Individuals arrested in Los Angeles, most of them from the city’s poorest neighborhoods, paid nearly $194 million in nonrefundable bail bond deposits and more than $17.5 million in cash between 2012-2016, according to a study of the impact of the money bail system in America’s second largest city.

The payments represented a fraction of what the study said was the “massive” $19.3 billion in bail set during that four-year period, which one of the authors called an example of a “justice system that routinely reacts more punitively towards poverty than affluence.”

The study, conducted by a team of researchers at UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies as part of an incarceration mapping project called “Million Dollar Hoods,” found that of the $193.7 million in nonrefundable deposits paid to bond agents during the period, Latinos paid $92.1 million, African Americans paid $40.7 million, and Whites paid $37.9 million.

Moreover, according to the study, the communities in Los Angeles whose residents were levied the largest overall sums of bail also have the highest unemployment rates.

Citing earlier research that showed bail assessments were usually paid by women, including mothers, spouses and relatives of the accused, the authors said it was more than likely that the bail amounts were “disproportionately paid by women, namely Black women and Latinas.”

“Moreover,” the study said, “Each community likely paid much more when accounting for post-arraignment payments, the service fees charged by bail bond companies, and, in some cases, asset seizures.”

In a separate post, Isaac Bryan, one of the co-authors, described his own experience when he was called by a bond agent soon after a relative was arrested and deemed eligible for bail.

Isaac Bryan

Isaac Bryan

“They explained my family member would be released if I could pay either the entire bail amount in cash, and have it refunded at the conclusion of their court proceedings, or pay…10 percent of the total bail in exchange for a surety bond—with one caveat: I would never be refunded that 10 percent.”

Bryan said he wasn’t able to pay the full bail amount of $25,000 in cash or the non-refundable amount.

“As a result, my family member sat incarcerated pretrial simply because I did not have the financial means to purchase their freedom,” wrote Bryan, who is completing his Masters in Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Money bail is perhaps the most obvious feature of a justice system that routinely reacts more punitively towards poverty than affluence.”

According to the study, 62,118 people during the four-year period were able to come up with the cash or surety required for their release pre-trial, but over 70 percent of those booked could not pay, “which left 223,366 people in LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) custody prior to arraignment between 2012 and 2016.”

The project was led by Bunche Center Director Kelly Lytle-Hernandez. Other authors of the study, entitled, “The Price for Freedom: Bail in the City of L.A.,” were Terry Allen and Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the American Civil Liberties Union in California, who served as consultant.

The UCLA-based Million Dollars Hoods describes itself as a “community-driven research project” involved in mapping the cost of incarceration in the Los Angeles metropolitan region. A video of the group’s work can be downloaded here.

See also: Why the Money Bail System Needs to End by Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute. 

To download the Los Angeles bail study, please click here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

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