Should we end the use of cash bail? | The Tylt

Should we end the use of cash bail?

Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell defeated incumbent Bob McCulloch in the St. Louis County Prosecutor primary. McCulloch, most well-known for his decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, has held the position since 1991. Part of Bell's winning platform was a promise to reform the county's cash bail system. Opponents of the practice say it penalizes poor people, while supporters claim it's the best option available. What do you think?

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Should we end the use of cash bail?
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Cash bail is meant to insure that those accused of crimes return to court for their trials. When a person is accused of a crime, they are supposed to be taken before a judge who will determine the severity of said crime. For non-violent offenders, judges can offer the accused the option to post bail—a monetary amount they can pay that will allow them to return home pending their trials. Upon returning to court, the amount is returned to the accused person. However, if bail cannot be paid, people accused of crimes are sent back to jail to await their trial. 

Opponents of the cash bail system say it unfairly penalizes poor people, per Vox:

The idea behind money bail is to provide an incentive for someone to return to court, since he can recoup the cost if he comes back for required court appearances. But in reality, the result is obviously unjust — it is simply much easier for wealthy people to afford bail. This leaves poor people languishing in jail just because they can’t pay bail, even though they have only been accused — but not formally convicted — of a crime at that point in the trial process.
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Some judges impose high cash bail out of concern that a person accused of a crime could, if released before their trial, commit further crimes. An article from The Atlantic investigated the practice of cash bail in Brooklyn.

[J]udges, for their part, have had no reason to change long-standing practice. There can also be real risks to releasing a defendant, and current conditions permit them to take more punitive precautions. “Whether directly or subliminally,” said Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of New York’s highest court and the head of the criminal-justice commission, “the judge doesn’t like to see his name on the front page of a tabloid: ‘Judge releases so-and-so,’ and they do some great damage to public safety.”
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Despite these possible concerns, the movement to end cash bail entirely is gaining momentum. In late July, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that would end cash bail on the federal level and incentivize states to do the same. According to The Intercept: 

The No Money Bail Act is the latest example of the push from the left to tackle criminal justice reform. It would prohibit money bail in federal criminal cases, provide grants to states that wish to implement alternate pretrial systems, and withhold grant funding from states that continue using cash bail systems.

A summary of Sanders' bill provided to The Intercept says:

“It has always been clear that we have separate criminal justice systems in this country for the poor and for the rich,” the summary reads. “A wealthy person charged with a serious crime may get an ankle monitor and told not to leave the country; a poor person charged with a misdemeanor may sit in a jail cell. And this disproportionately affects minorities — fifty percent of all pretrial detainees are Black or Latinx.”
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Bail bond companies are leading the charge to maintain current bail policies. In Ohio, one of numerous states currently debating a change to their cash bail system, bail bond companies are saying that ending the practice would put undue strain on the public. 

In Ohio, bail bond companies have lined up to oppose the idea, saying it will put them out of business and shift the cost of finding defendants who leave town onto already strapped police departments.
"Right now, our bail system supports numerous functions of the court and law enforcement," Woody Fox, owner of Woody Fox Bail Bonds, told lawmakers in March. "Eliminating bail as we know it will force these entities to raise local taxes to fill the funding gap left as result of this legislation."
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Former chief judge of New York Jonathan Lippman argued against cash bail in an op-ed for Fox News.

In New York City, only 12 percent of the people who have bail set can pay immediately. The other 88 percent are transported to the infamous jail complex on Rikers Island.
Rikers is a particularly awful place – so bad that an independent commission that I lead determined that the only way to fix Rikers is to close it forever. But whether you are sent to Rikers or any other jail, you are entering a harsh and often dangerous environment that isolates you from your loved ones, your livelihood and your community.
....Even a short time in jail can harm your job, your family and your reputation. It can expose you to violence or criminal influences. All this happens before you have been convicted of any crime.
The consequences do not end at the jail doors. Studies show that spending just a few days in jail leads to a greater likelihood that you will be charged with additional offenses down the road. In addition, people who are held in jail before trial are more likely to plead guilty than those who aren’t, and are more likely to receive longer sentences.
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Despite the general consensus that cash bail is not the best practice, some in the criminal justice system—including McCulloch, the outgoing St. Louis County Prosecutor—maintain that cash bail exist because there is no other feasible alternatives. In an interview with the Riverfront Times, McCulloch explained this opinion.

McCulloch insists his office continues to consider alternatives to cash bail, and that electronic monitoring has proven effective. He'd also like to see the end of bail bond businesses, whose practices he finds "reprehensible."
"I’d be very happy if they just went away," McCulloch says, though he quickly points out that his opposition to bondsmen doesn't mean he's keen on eliminating cash bail completely, as the ACLU and other activists would like.
"I keep asking, 'What's the alternative? Don’t jail them?' That just doesn’t work," he says.
Wouldn't abolishing cash bail solve that the problem of predatory bondsmen for good?
McCulloch answers, chuckling, "Well, it would solve every issue, we wouldn't have anybody in jail."
He adds, "The two easiest things in the world are to fill up a jail and empty a jail. I’m open to every alternative there is. If there's something we haven't tried, I’m willing to try it. More often than not, we’ve already tried it." 
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should we end the use of cash bail?
A festive crown for the winner
#EndCashBail
#MaintainCashBail