The United States incarcerates more people than any country on earth. There are many reasons why this problem has spun out of control … one of them: the cash bail system. Cash bail is money that you pay to be released from prison while you await trial. If you can pay bail, you walk free. If not, you’re stuck behind bars – sometimes for months, or even years.
The cash bail system targets the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our country – and once they get caught in the bail trap, there’s practically no way out. If you’re stuck in jail, you can lose your job – thereby losing your only chance to make the money it takes to pay for your home, your bills, and to support your family.
Poverty is treated as a crime in this country. Your bank account should never determine whether you’ll be able to go home, see your family, and keep your job. But that’s exactly what the bail system is doing to people from low-income communities, and it’s feeding a mass incarceration system that’s unmatched by any other country in the world.
Bail reform is one of many transformations needed to make our country’s criminal justice system fair and equitable.