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The Current Problem with Inequality in the U.S. Bail System

 ILLUSTRATION BY TERRY LABAN

      The United States’ Bail system has excessively influenced the lives of people of color and particularly poor people. Every year quantities of Americans all across the United States are sent to prison without being indicted for wrongdoing due to the high bail costs. This fiscal cost takes the freedom of the imprisoned respondents and the United States bail system defrauds the denounced. Due to the fact that the judge chooses the amount one pays in order to be discharged ahead of their court date, in the event that they are not able to pay to bail the defendant is abandoned in jail until the appointed court date regardless of if they actually committed the crime or not. This arrangement of high bail prices drives the litigant to confront a loathsome decision of pleading guilty and returning home saddled with a criminal record or maintaining innocence and if unable to afford the high bail prices they’re left with the faith of being in prison. In most cases, the respondent confesses after the arrest for the sole reason that it's less expensive than paying bail charges and anticipating trial. The United States Bail System adversely affects the poor, giving them a great injustice and rewards the rich as they can assemble enough money to obtain bail.

   Many faced bail amounts ranging between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. In other cases, defendants were given high bail amounts for seemingly minor charges. For instance, according to Bail Nullification written by Jocelyn Simonson, she indicates “the public learned in the summer of 2015 with the deaths of Kalief Browder in New York City and Sandra Bland in Texas both of whom had been in jail because they could not pay bail--jail is often a violent and damaging place.” Sandra Bland, for example, was unable to pay even a small percentage of her $5,000 bail to cover a non-refundable bail bond leaving the 28-year-old black woman to sit in a holding cell for days before allegedly hanging herself. Had she been wealthier, her fate might have been different. In Kalief Browder’s case, he spent three years in Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime because he was unable to post bail. After he was released, he struggled with mental health problems, and eventually took his own life as he was unable to overcome his own pain and torment which emanated from his experiences in solitary confinement.

     Unfortunately within the criminal justice system, freedom equates to how much money you have in your bank account, especially in bearing the cost in court fees. According to Optimal bail and the Value of Freedom: evidence from the Philadelphia Bail Experiment, David S Abrams states “jail costs, the cost of lost freedom to incarcerated defendants.” The United States Bail System fails to see how their high bail prices cause mass incarceration in jails. Many innocent people needlessly sit in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. Due to overcrowded jail cells, prisoners are presented with violence, rottenness, and illness; detainees can spend days in a confined cell without exercise, daylight, or human interaction. Those in some prisons are obligated to utilize open pit toilets that add up to a foul-smelling hole seeping from the ground. Correctional facility authorities can deny prisoners access to fundamental necessities like toothpaste, cleanser, and tampons and keep them in minor rooms spread with blood, and bodily waste. Defendants who cannot afford bail costs are forced to be in jail in these unsafe conditions due to the fact their budget doesn’t cut it. Numerous respondents are living paycheck to paycheck. In the event that they can't appear to work, they are fired and stripped of the capacity to be monetarily independent. Losing access to housing or missing the mark on installments, and abandoning them from their families or other emotionally supportive networks,  these traps influence all defendants, despite their "guilt" and just heighten the chances of future imprisonment. Nonetheless, many of these individuals can be stripped of their right to vote if prosecuted with a specific charge.

        In most cases, the US Bail System’s main priority for “an unaffordable bail amount is the only amount sufficient to create an adequate disincentive to flee,” as stated in The Downstream Consequences of Misdemeanor Pretrial Detention dictated by Paul Heaton, Sandra Mayson, and Megan Stevenson. Bail is designed to prevent an accused person from fleeing while awaiting trial. The individual can post cash to get out of jail, and as long as they make all court appearances, and are able to get their money back at the end of the trial. This sounds simple for s5the individuals who can bear the cost of it. In any case, loads of individuals don't have cash promptly accessible. This leaves destitute individuals sitting in prison – before they are even sentenced. Although this tactic may remove “potential criminals” off the streets which can cause less crime and safety in the communities, yet  those “potential criminals” have yet to be convicted thus are innocent, therefore being unnecessary imprisoned. According to “Reviving the carefully limited exception: from jail to GPS bail,” Alexis Causey indicates “Beginning in 1998, the number of pretrial detainees began growing at a much faster pace than the number of sentenced offenders; this gap between the pretrial and sentenced populations continues to grow each year. Today in California, approximately sixty-two percent of the daily county jail population in California has not been sentenced for any criminal offense.” Statistics show that 39% of the jail populace is behind bars with minimal public safety rationale. Furthermore, they can be discharged, all together and securely cutting our jail population.

      Nevertheless, the United States Bail System has much room for improvement, but it will require a massive change from the inside out. It goes against The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as article 11, states: "Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.” Yet the Bail System will advocate for your innocence through putting a high rate price on it in order to receive the percentage of the money. According to David S. Abrams and Chris Rohlfs mentions,“The justice system holds 7% of the bail amount for 90 days and it keeps the remaining 3%. For simplicity, we assume that the justice system discounts at the same rate as the defendant and that the total value of the transfer to the justice system is about 0.037.” Going forward, severe mass incarceration, high bail prices, and death in prison will be the leashes of the US Bail system.


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Sources: 

Abrams, David S., and Chris Rohlfs. "Optimal bail and the value of freedom: evidence from the      Philadelphia bail experiment." Economic Inquiry, vol. 49, no. 3, 2011, p. 750+. Academic OneFile, link.galegroup.com.rpa.laguardia.edu:2048/apps/doc/A261386337/AONE?u=cuny_laguardia&sid=AONE&xid=7dbc1d1e. Accessed 7 Dec. 2017. 

Causey, Alexis. "Reviving the carefully limited exception: from jail to GPS bail." Faulkner Law Review, vol. 5, no. 1, 2013, p. 59+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.rpa.laguardia.edu:2048/apps/doc/A380750102/AONE?u=cuny_laguardia&sid=AONE&xid=4aaf8fcb. Accessed 11 Dec. 2017.

Heaton, Paul, et al. "The downstream consequences of misdemeanor pretrial detention." Stanford Law Review, Mar. 2017, p. 711+. Academic OneFile, link.galegroup.com.rpa.laguardia.edu:2048/apps/doc/A491843133/AONE?u=cuny_laguardia&sid=AONE&xid=8d86a8f3. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

Simonson, Jocelyn. "Bail nullification." Michigan Law Review, Mar. 2017, p. 585+. Academic OneFile, link.galegroup.com.rpa.laguardia.edu:2048/apps/doc/A488604698/AONE?u=cuny_laguardia&sid=AONE&xid=18dbdb64. Accessed 6 Dec. 2017.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.

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