PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD
The Progressive Party supports reforming the system of cash bail. Unfortunately, many proposals have been considered as replacements, but no suitable system has yet been introduced to fairly replace the existing systems.
If you're arrested in most cities and towns in America, you'll be fingerprinted, booked and tossed in a jail cell until the judge sets your bail. Technically, bail means any kind of conditional release from custody between your arrest and your actual trial date. But in most cases, bail means money.
The system of cash bail doesn’t keep dangerous criminals off the streets. It just keeps poor people in jail and enables finance companies to rake in enormous profits at their expense.
The stated purpose of cash bail is to ensure that defendants show up in court and that dangerous people stay off the streets. By requiring some amount of money up-front and threatening further cash penalties, defendants are motivated to comply. Or so the theory goes. But it’s increasingly clear that cash bail doesn’t accomplish these goals either fairly or efficiently, and that alternatives that don’t require defendants to pay for their release are actually more effective.
The real crime, for criminal justice reform groups like the Pretrial Justice Institute, is that the cash bail system produces two very different outcomes depending on how much money the defendant can scrape together. A person arrested for felony assault, who poses a potential safety risk to the community, could walk free if they make bail. While a person arrested for misdemeanor shoplifting, could sit in jail for weeks because they can't come up with a few hundred bucks for bail.
In the large swaths of the country that still rely on cash bail, it’s all too often the poor—not the dangerous or delinquent—who remain behind bars when they can’t afford to purchase their freedom. Those who do pay bail often find themselves in another kind of prison: shackled for months or years to a debt that hobbles their opportunities to get ahead.
In most situations, bail arrangements are private contracts that are unrelated to court outcomes. Whether a person is found innocent, guilty, or has the charges against them dropped, the bail bond company still collects their fee.