“Criminal justice,” President Obama remarked at the NAACP’s national conference last month, “is not as fair as it should be.”
As a precursor to a post we are developing, which highlights bail practices across the country as one of the foremost failings of our modern criminal justice system, we wanted to share “The Bail Trap,” an illuminating piece published by the New York Times this week. “Every year, thousands of innocent people are sent to jail only because they can’t afford to post bail,” Journalist Nick Pinto writes, “putting them at risk of losing their jobs, custody of their children — even their lives.”
But this is not just an in vogue topic. In 1964, then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy said in a speech to a conference on pretrial justice:
What has been demonstrated here is that usually only one factor determines whether a defendant stays in jail before he comes to trial. That factor is not guilt or innocence. It is not the nature of the crime. It is not the character of the defendant. That factor is, simply, money. How much money does the defendant have?
Fifty-one years later—with little to no progress having been made to reform this injustice—we look forward to joining the constructive discourse, and the continued push for change. Stay tuned.
- The Justice Policy Institute’s 2012 “Bail Fail” study argues for abolishing the “money bail” practice in America. Terrell Starr’s piece, Criminal Justice Experts: Bail System Needs More Than Reform, It Needs to Be Scrapped, draws from the report.
- In August 2014, a DC Public Safety podcast entitled “Pretrial in America” looked at the District of Columbia’s pretrial services movement: “[T]he bottom line behind the . . . movement . . . is that the person is innocent until proven guilty.”
- “How Justice Shortchanges Blacks,” an article published in the October 1974 issue of Ebony magazine, observed: “Poverty, ignorance keep innocent men behind bars.”
- North Carolina’s statutory bail provisions are found in Article 26 of Chapter 15A of the North Carolina General Statutes.
- For South Carolina’s law on bail proceedings, see Chapter 15 of Title 17 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.