5 Reasons Bail is Bad

Soon, the Assembly will vote on The California Money Bail Reform Act (SB 10). As we work towards passing #BailReform, I wanted to take a minute and share the top 5 reasons bail is bad:

1. Huge costs to taxpayers

  • Taxpayers pay $14 billion a year – $38 million per day – to keep people in jail who have not been convicted of a crime. Most of this is spent on people who do not pose a significant risk to public safety.
  • Spent otherwise, $14 billion dollars could provide shelter and services for 50,000 homeless veterans, salaries for 300,000 firefighters, or free or reduced lunch to 31 million children.

2. Pretrial detention can lead to low-income folks pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit.

  • The vast majority of people do not get a jury trial. In 2006, 96% of convictions were the result of guilty pleas; only 4% of convictions resulted from actual trials.
  • Because many people are unable to afford bail and can’t bear the burdens of spending days in jail (like losing a job, being unable to pay rent, or affording childcare), some plead guilty in order to be released.

3. Bail companies cash in big profits.

  • If a person is arrested and can’t pay the full amount of their bail, they can go to a commercial bail bond agency, where they will be charged a nonrefundable fee of 10% of their full bail amount in order to get out of jail.
  • This puts freedom out of reach for most low-income people and drives many people into long-term debt, since people are on the hook for that fee, even if charges are dropped or a person is determined to be innocent.

4. Bail disproportionately affects people of color.

  • Black people are detained at a rate that is 5 times higher than white people.
  • Black defendants ages 18 through 29 received higher bail amounts than any other group. Bail amounts for Black men average 35% higher than those for white men, even when controlling for the seriousness of the offense.
  • People of color are more likely to be denied bail. The likelihood of having bail denied is up to 25% higher for Black and Latino people.

5. Bail doesn’t make our communities safer.

  • Money bail was put in place to ensure folks would make their trial dates. But statistically, bail doesn’t increase the percentage of people who appear for their trial date.
  • Kentucky, for example, releases about 70% of people awaiting the resolution of their cases; 90% of those make all their future court appearances and 92% are not re-arrested while they wait for their cases to go forward. (Source: Color of Change and ACLU Report on Bail)

That’s why the for-profit bail industry is pulling out all the stops to stall reforms all over the country – including here in California. This week, Assemblymembers will vote on The California Money Bail Reform Act (SB10). If passed, it will significantly reduce the number of people that are in California jails simply because they can’t afford to pay bail. The bill will also prioritize services to help people make their court appearances and curb the state’s reliance on money bail. Take a minute now and call your state Assemblymember, urge them to vote YES for #BailReform.