Reform

The Bail Project / Newsroom / Reform

Bail reform has become a big topic nationally. But not all reform is good reform. Here, we collect articles about the realities and nuances of bail reform throughout America.

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...

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...

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...

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...