We Can’t End Mass Incarceration Without Ending Cash Bail
When someone is arrested – even wrongfully – they are typically forced to pay cash bail, which can run from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those who can afford to pay go free, allowing them to return to their homes, families, and jobs before their trial. But people who cannot afford their bail are locked up while their cases go through the courts, which can take weeks, months, or even years.
In the United States, we are all supposed to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. But that is not how cash bail works. Instead, it’s created two criminal justice systems: one for the rich and one for the rest of us. On any given day across the country, roughly 700,000 people are locked up in local jails – and about 70% of them have not been convicted of a crime, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In North Carolina, the problem is even worse: a stunning 86% of people sitting in our local jails haven’t been convicted of a crime.
Our bail system was originally designed to ensure that people returned to court as their case progressed. But today it has mutated into a way to squeeze money out of people who are disproportionately poor and working class as average bail amounts continue to skyrocket. If you can’t afford your entire bail, your only other choice is to pay a non-refundable fee to a for-profit bail bond company that can trap you in debt for years.
This system is unjust and broken, and it has to change.
As part of the nationwide Campaign for Smart Justice, the ACLU of North Carolina is working to end the unjust for-profit cash bail system that strips people of their rights, targets poor people and people of color, and hurts families and communities.
Learn more about the ACLU of North Carolina at acluofnc.org.