It’s Time To End The Unjust Money Bail System

The “No Money Bail Act of 2016” will seek to ensure no one is held in jail solely because of the inability to post bail.

A bill introduced to the Congress on February 24 aims at ending the unjust practice of coercing people to pay for their freedom.

Every year nearly half a million of presumably innocent Americans, who are mostly black, spend their time in jail at an unnecessarily high cost to taxpayers and often devastating personal losses.

The costs of unjustly keeping people in jail simply because they are too poor to afford bail are well known to most Americans, especially to black people, who are two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested and asked to pay higher bail amounts than whites.

On average, black men are given 35 percent more money-bond amounts than their white counterparts. In addition to the historically pervasive economic inequity in America, this bail-amount disparity fosters a system that enables our jails and prisons to be so disproportionately filled with black people.

The African-American community’s long suffering as a result of unjustifiably high bail bonds was brought to the spotlight when Kalief Browder, Sandra Bland, Allen Bullock and many others sadly became victims of the failed system.

The “No Money Bail Act of 2016” introduced by Congressman Ted W. Lieu emphasizes the need to protect thousands of people, who risk losing everything, including their jobs, custody of children, homes, and even their lives because they cannot afford to pay bail.

The initiative to end money-bail has garnered support from everyday Americans and criminal-justice stakeholders, including national organizations representing police, prosecutors, judges, the defense bar and others, who believe the need for pretrial reform is justified because the damage bail bonds have on poor people is very severe.

According to the Department of Justice, “Any bail or bond scheme that mandates payment of prefixed amounts for different offenses in order to gain pretrial release, without any regard for indigence, not only violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but also constitutes bad public policy.”

We hope that the representatives in the U.S. Congress would adhere to the voices of their voters by passing this bill and realize that a safe America is not a place where poor black people are robbed of their resources, but is a place, in which freedom is a God-given right that should not be paid for.

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