The problem with the U.S. bail system - Camilo Ramirez
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A fundamental protection in any society is the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But what if that right was something you had to purchase? Here’s the history of how cash bail turned the presumption of innocence into a luxury.
Cash bail is one of the reasons the U.S. is one of the most incarcerated nations on earth. In the past 20 years, pretrial detention, largely driven by the incarceration of those who cannot afford cash bail, has been a key driver of jail growth and racial disparities in the legal system. In this video, actor and activist Danny Glover explains how cash bail fuels mass incarceration.
On any given day, over 60% of people held in U.S. jails have not been convicted of a crime. The human cost of these policies is devastating. In this TED Talk, Robin Steinberg, founder of The Bail Project, explains the ripple effect that being held in jail on cash bail can have on individuals, their due process rights, families, and entire communities.
Cash bail creates a two-tier system of justice, in which people in Black and low-income communities see their due process systematically violated. As this story illustrates, holding on to your innocence is not easy when the only way out of jail is to plead guilty.
As The Bail Project’s work demonstrates, it doesn’t have to be this way. Cash bail is not only unjust to those who can’t afford it, but it’s also unnecessary as the vast majority of people simply return to court without a financial incentive when provided with adequate support.
So what could replace cash bail if we were to end it? As The Bail Project notes, we need to be vigilant about creating alternatives that do not recreate the harms and disparities of the current system. The Bail Project offers five principles to help reimagine pretrial justice after cash bail.
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