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Author: The New York Times

The Bail Project / Articles posted by SLSoper (Page 2)

It’s a must-read! “[Prison abolition] is both a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for government investment in jobs, education, housing, health care — all the elements that are required for a productive and violence-free life. Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack.”

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

Beyond feeling the changes do far too little to end or reduce the use of money bail, advocates also “worry that language in the policy effectively criminalizes mental health and substance abuse problems” because magistrates and judges, under the new policy, are allowed to reject pretrial-release options for people they perceive to be not of “sound mind” (with no specific criteria for that determination provided). ACLU attorneys report they’ve never seen “that phrase in a local bail policy.”

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

The ACLU of Michigan has sued the 36th District Court in Detroit for “violating the constitutional rights of people who are presumed innocent but are confined to jail because they cannot afford to pay bail.” The lawsuit is on behalf of seven Black defendants, an unfortunately accurate representation of the racially disparate impacts of cash bail in Detroit. In addition to challenging the basic practice of money bail, the lawsuit also notes that the “vast majority of bail arraignments are done via video teleconference” and defendants routinely appear in bail hearings without counsel (of the observed cases, 95 percent of people did not have an attorney). You can find the full case here(Internal only note: TBP Detroit and Detroit Justice Center provided expertise on how the Detroit bail system works and the ACLU observed standard bailout operations to help put together this lawsuit!) 

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

As conversations around re-enfranchising formerly incarcerated people grow, a look at the disenfranchisement of people detained pretrial and people serving jail or prison sentences. A proposed bill in Illinois would require counties to provide mail-in or on-site voting opportunities for people in jail pretrial: “It’s about making sure that the rights we have are real.”

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

The New York Times reported that a glitch that prevented East Baton Rouge Parish’s jury database from updating properly left over 150,000 people off the jury rolls: “Across the country, computer-reliant jury coordinators have for years confronted database problems that kept otherwise-eligible potential jurors from being called to the nation’s courthouses…Such systemic exclusions raise constitutional concerns and threaten the integrity of the jury system, legal experts said.” The Times provides a look into the legal, constitutional, and ethical questions that arise when algorithms or other technical systems malfunction, leading to real-life consequences for people (as always, experienced along the lines of race, class, gender, and more).

The reforms abolished cash bail for most misdemeanors and “nonviolent” felonies, with an exception for “domestic violence” misdemeanors. Speedy trial and discovery reforms were also included in the bail reform package; previously, New York’s speedy trial law had gaping loopholes, and the state had some of the worst laws governing discovery, which didn’t require prosecutors to turn over evidence until the night before trial. Additionally, progressive legislators were able to fend off incorporating “dangerousness” considerations into bail decisions, keeping New York as one of the only states without “dangerousness” considerations. However, the reinforcement of the “violent/nonviolent” distinction, as well as the bill opening the door for electronic surveillance, has some advocates less than enthused. You can read The Bronx Freedom Fund’s statement here.

The reforms don’t go into full effect until January 2020, but most could be implemented immediately. However, the courts have refused to fast-track the reforms.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

This article in The Appeal looks at how the cash bail system and bail bond industry preys on women not only as defendants, but also as the demographic most likely to be paying someone’s bail: “[A] vast population of women, largely invisible in public discussions of bail reform, is brought into the system through the co-signing process. Handing over hundreds or thousands of dollars, these women may drain their savings or go into debt.” And our partner, The Audacious Project, covered how women are the “hidden victims” of the cash bail crisis.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

The Marshall Project covered how misleading the “violent/nonviolent” distinction is, and how prosecutors use the process of “up-charging” (i.e. charging people for more “serious” crimes, such as charging the act of getting into a bar fight as “assault with intent to kill”) to force guilty pleas. Resisting the “violent/nonviolent” distinction is particularly relevant to bail reform given that many proposed reforms, including those passed in New York last week, eliminate cash bail for people accused only of “nonviolent” crimes.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

Instead, the state relies on pretrial algorithms to determine detention decisions. Their conclusion is that the reforms are working: the state’s jail population dropped by 44 percent; failure-to-appear, recidivism, and “violent” crime did not significantly increase. However, racial disparities have not decreased significantly. While lawmakers are touting the program as a success, it is still facing an “impending funding crisis. You can find the full report here.

Summarized by Jacob Koffler