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The Bail Project / Newsroom  / Top Reads

Indianapolis Business Journal highlights our work in the city.

“I don’t think people understand the impact even a few days in jail has on a human life and their entire family. They can lose everything: their home, their children, their job. It’s so difficult to get back on the right track.” -Devi Davis, our bail disruptor in Indianapolis.

Since launching in June 2018, the Bail Project in Detroit has bailed out almost 200 people, including 72 fathers. On June 15, this past Father’s Day, the Bail Project and Detroit Justice Center hosted a celebration with fathers who likely would have been incarcerated that day had they not received help posting bond.

Reflecting on her work, bail disruptor Asia Johnson said, “When I see clients like Chris and Abigail, I know that it is worth the fight. … The fact that they are here today and he’s celebrating being a father and I got to bring him back home to his family. It just means the world to me.”

When 19-year-old Daehaun White was released from jail in St. Louis, he was so overjoyed that he forgot to check in with a representative for the company EMASS, which straps black boxes with GPS monitoring onto the ankles of people on pretrial release.

Soon, White’s arrest on minor charges spiraled into a debt exceeding $800, all owed to a company that charges defendants $10 a day plus other excessive fees. The county offers defendants no hearing to determine whether they can pay fees for such onerous surveillance.

A study released by the Center for Court Innovation last week offers further proof that pretrial risk-assessments tools⁠—which some states have turned to in place of cash bail⁠—assign higher risk scores to Black people compared to white, meaning the former are more likely to remain incarcerated where risk assessments are used.

While others have made similar observations, the study adds value to the discussion because it suggests this kind of racism is intrinsic to the risk assessment model by design, and not particular to just one or a handful of assessments.

The Cambridge Homeless Court takes a different approach from most, connecting defendants with resources outside the court system. But critics say it doesn’t get to the root of the problem: “Communities are intentionally targeting the homeless by making it a crime to sleep on the street, or panhandle, or by selectively enforcing petty laws, using the criminal justice system to address the social service problem. Our preference would be simply stop criminalizing that behavior in the first place.”

Summarized by Jacob Koffler

“Suicide, long the leading cause of death in U.S. jails, hit a high of 50 deaths for every 100,000 inmates in 2014, the latest government data available…Many jails have been sued or investigated in recent years for allegedly refusing inmates medication to help manage mental illness, failing to properly monitor them or ignoring cries for help…

More than half the suicides or attempts occurred during the first week of being jailed, and about 80% of the inmates were awaiting trial.”

A federal judge ruled last week that St. Louis jails – including the infamous Workhouse where over 90% of people are detained pretrial – can’t incarcerate people simply because they can’t pay bail. The judge cited data from our St. Louis site in ruling that: “There is no evidence that financial conditions of release are more effective than alternatives for ensuring court appearance and public safety.” However, as of now, St. Louis courts are holding up new bail hearings for people entitled to them.

Summarized by Jacob Koffler

This piece from The Appeal looks at how “local media continues to rely on fearmongering police narratives in lieu of evidence and nuance.” Using Chicago’s CBS 2 as an example, it explores how local media outlets stoke unsubstantiated fears of threats to “public safety,” and, in the process, contribute undeserved pushback to bail reform. A necessary exploration of how the presumption of innocence is undermined not only in our courts, but also in our culture.

Summarized by Jacob Koffler

In many states across the country, there are far too few hospital beds for mentally ill people, including people deemed incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness. In most cases, this means unconvicted people are sent to jail until a spot opens up, further exacerbating people’s mental illnesses and placing them far away from adequate resources. This is a nationwide problem that “experts say may be linked to the downsizing of psychiatric hospitals and inadequate community mental-health resources.

Summarized by: Jacob Koffler

Over half of all pretrial service programs use video for people’s initial bail hearings! The audio and visual quality of the video is often low, such that defendants sometimes can’t even hear what’s going on at all. In some places, such as Philadelphia, a person’s public defender is only available to them via video, disabling them from having any private interaction with their counsel before or during arraignment and calling into question if defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel is being met.

Summarized by: Jacob Koffler