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Reports: Bail Money Harmful Toward Black, Poor Communities

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File photo of a bail bond agency. (credit: Getty Images)

File photo of a bail bond agency. (credit: Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Need to get out of jail through a bail bonds agency? Some cities and a number of states are making it harder and harder to get bailed out of jail.

New research suggests that for-profit bail funding is harmful toward the poor and minority communities, describing it as a problematic policy that should be eliminated nationwide. Citing the efforts in four states and three jurisdictions within the U.S., the Justice Policy Institute has released two reports this month outlining the case for ending bail bonds.

The two reports – “Bail Fail: Why the U.S. Should End the Practice of Money Bail” and “For Better or Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice” – lay out several recommendations for weathering the elimination of bail bonds. Officials at JPI are pushing for using pretrial services to evaluate the potential danger caused by the detainee, issuing court notification to remind people of their hearings, and considering the point of view of the victim when deciding a person’s pretrial hearing, according to the research.

Currently, the states of Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin have eliminated money bail. Cities and jurisdictions such as Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Broward County, Fla., have done the same, according to JPI.

The findings come during a period in which millions of Americans are processed through jails. The reports state that almost 12 million people were processed in U.S. jails between June 2010 and June 2011. Velazquez told New American Media that 60 percent of people detained but not convicted are detained on low bail amounts that they cannot afford, and that some people plead guilty to help expedite their release.

“[In] as high as a quarter to half of cases nationally, the detained individual pleads guilty just to get out of jail and not lose their job or their kids,” Velazquez told New American Media. “Sometimes they are dismissed because they had already served time while they were awaiting their trials. It’s also punishing people before they are found guilty, or if they aren’t [found guilty].”

The studies went on to indicate that black men and women make up 38 percent of the U.S. jail population. According to the research, blacks ages 18 to 29 have the highest bail amounts compares to other racial and ethnic groups. Velazquez said that people who don’t earn as much money or are minorities sometimes have little choice but to stay in jail, because they can’t afford the bond to be released.

“People who stay in jail were more likely to be found guilty regardless of the merits of the case.” she told New American Media. “Think about it – they show up to court looking guilty.”

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