Those who have been arrested in Virginia understand how stressful it can be to need to pay a cash bond in order to be released from jail while awaiting trial. Not everyone can afford to pay, and that can keep a person locked away from their family and their livelihood before even getting their day in court. A new bill proposed in the Senate is aiming to end the practice of bail bonds.
As the USA Today reports, Senators Kamala Harris (D. CA) and Rand Paul (R. KY) introduced a bill that would help states cover the $38 million it costs, per day, to pay for pretrial detention. The bill would use grant money to help local jurisdictions move away from the bail system, which the Senators say unfairly keeps poor defendants in jail before they have been proven guilty. This system hurts minorities and those who are not wealthy, creating a two-tiered system that can further marginalize defendants, who may lose their jobs or have their children taken into protective custody because they cannot pay. The grants would allow defendants to be released without paying and set up a risk assessment hearing to determine if there is a non-financial reason a court may want to detain a defendant before their trial.
According to the New York Times, 450,000 people are currently in jails across the country awaiting their trials, many because they could not afford their bail. In the past, the Supreme Court has stated that “punishing a person for his poverty” is unlawful, and this bill is meant to rectify the system so that is not happening. In some cases, bail is set at $20,00 for a theft of about $100. The Senators says that men of color are regularly charged more for bail than white men, and it increases the prison population, which is a drain on taxpayers.