African-American Voters Want Pretrial Change: Report

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African-American voters want change at the front door—or the pretrial stage—of the criminal justice system, according to a new report by the Pretrial Justice Institute.

The report noted that African Americans are disproportionately penalized by detention decisions that are based on wealth instead of safety, and, they are more likely to be required to pay money to be released from jail before trial and to pay higher amounts.

For example, from Los Angeles to Baltimore, African-American communities are losing tens of millions of dollars to money bail payments—dollars that cannot be recovered, even if the charges are dropped or the person is found not guilty, authors said.

In sum, African-American voters are “ready for change.”

Data revealed that 72 percent of voters agree that the criminal justice system needs significant change and 86 percent of African-American voters believe that wealthy people enjoy better outcomes from the criminal justice system than poor and working-class Americans.

More, the study found that 78 percent of African-American voters want to reduce the number of arrests for low-level, nonviolent offenses by issuing citations rather than arresting people and 73 percent would limit the number of days a person not charged with a serious violent crime can stay in jail pretrial if he or she cannot afford money bail.

Significantly, African American voters also wanted community based support, the study revealed.

A total of 65 percent of African-American voters would stop the practice of jailing people who cannot afford money bail and 90 percent would support educational courses and counseling to help people released before trial show up for their court appearances and not be arrested on new charges.

Authors concluded that unnecessary pretrial detention due to an inability to pay money bail has serious and compounding consequences.

“People lose their jobs, their housing—even custody of their children. Innocent people are pressured to accept guilty pleas. Even three days in jail can leave some people more likely to get arrested on new charges or to fail to appear in court.”

A full copy of the report can be found here.

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