Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced legislation that would end money bail on the federal level and incentivize states to do the same. Federal bail reform seems likely to stall; meanwhile, Robin Steinberg of the Bronx Defenders has set up a national bail project to help poor clients win pretrial release.
Michael N. Herring, the Virginia city’s top prosecutor, said his staffers will now recommend release without bail for most defendants. He said the cash bail system “strikes me as unfair” and does not ensure that accused criminals will appear in court.
A New York City experiment that used partially secured and unsecured bonds suggests that these are viable alternatives to a system that puts thousands of individuals behind bars awaiting trial because they can’t afford to make bail, according to a September 15 report by the Vera Institute of Justice.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal denounced Harris County’s cash bail system, saying it is fundamentally unfair to detain indigent people arrested for low-level offenses simply because they can’t afford to pay bail. He ordered the county to begin releasing indigent inmates as early as May 15.
University of Minnesota student Simon Cecil’s Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that aims to level the playing field by helping low-income people post bail has picked up support from local judges. It’s one of 10 similar funds around the country.
The new study released today by the Misdemeanor Justice Project at John Jay College of Criminal Justice also says the average length of stay for pretrial detainees has increased from 40 to 55 days between 2000 and 2015— even as the number of detentions has dropped.
On any given day, there are about 450,000 people in jail who haven’t been convicted of anything–at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $38 million a day. These men and women sit in jail because they don’t have the money to get out. It’s time to change the system.