In this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty. However, too many Americans are currently in jail before their day in court because they can’t afford to post bail.
This is problematic for many reasons.
First, it costs the country almost $80b per year in incarceration costs and loss of productivity.
Second, it puts pressure on people to take plea agreements even when they may not have committed a crime, as awaiting trial while in jail can impose a longer incarceration period than the plea deal. The unconvicted jail population is two to three times the size of the convicted population.
Third, bail determinations are highly subjective, with individuals receiving vastly different bail amounts for similar crimes.
Finally, the inability to pay cash bail obviously falls more frequently on those with lower levels of income. This often results in them losing their jobs, causing immediate economic distress. This is another pressure towards accepting plea deals, as well as causing a long-term poverty cycle which can rob them of future opportunities.
States that have reformed their bail systems to minimize cash bail have seen very high levels of trial attendance with very low levels of crime by those released while awaiting trial.
We should be much more judicious in the use of cash bail, only employing it when necessary.
People should not be going to jail because they cannot afford to make bail. That’s not the sort of country we are. It should not be criminal to be poor in this country. We can do better by improving the process leading up to a trial date—we should reduce our reliance on bail, and focus on clearer communication and services pre-trial.
Problems to be Solved
- Our cash bail system is costly and subjective, and results in false plea agreements and economic insecurity.
- Reduce the use of cash bail
- Increase pre-trial services
As President, I will…
- Work with states to decrease their reliance on cash bail, providing assistance and grants for various programs to increase trial attendance without the need to incarcerate people ahead of conviction.
- Implement a federal program of pre-trial services that would be made available to states, such as a text message system to remind individuals of their upcoming court dates.