In 2019, M., pregnant with her first child, was arrested and charged with a felony in Santa Clara County. At her first court appearance, M.’s public defender fought for her release. M. had diabetes, and to avoid complications, she needed to take prenatal vitamins, exercise regularly, carefully watch her diet and avoid stress. She couldn’t do that in jail. The judge refused to release her unless she paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash bail — an impossible sum. For months, M. hoped that the judge would release her so she could access necessary prenatal care. But he repeatedly denied her bail motions, speculating that M., a Latina who did not use drugs, would get high while pregnant. It was safer for the baby, he said, if she stayed in custody.
Eager to resolve a federal civil rights lawsuit, Texas' most populous county over the past two years has stopped requiring most people accused of low-level crimes from putting up cash to get out of jail on bond. Tens of thousands of people accused of misdemeanors not involving some specific circumstances, like domestic abuse or previous bond violations, have been freed without cost while awaiting trial. Letting them out does not appear to increase the chances they will be arrested for new crimes, according to researchers who have been tracking changes made to the Harris County misdemeanor bail system. In fact, the percentage of defendants arrested for new crimes within a year of their original arrest went down after the county changed its bail practices.
London - The police arrested several supporters of Assange who did not have press IDs and refused to disperse as the city is currently under a lockdown and public gatherings prohibited. Among the detained are several women and an elderly man. Journalists with proper identifications were allowed to continue their work. Earlier in the day, Westminster Magistrates Court refused to release Assange on bail, leaving him incarcerated while a US appeal against the decision not to extradite him to the United States is considered. Assange was arrested in London in April 2019 and sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for jumping his bail back in 2012, when he took refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK capital to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges and possible extradition to the United States.
“I am satisfied there are substantial grounds for believing that if Mr Assange is released today he would fail to surrender to court to face the appeal proceedings,” Judge Vanessa Baraitser said. “As far as Mr Assange is concerned this case has not yet been won… the outcome of this appeal is not yet known.” She was referring to the fact that Assange after failing in his battle against extradition to Sweden, breached bail and took refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London in June 2012. He was granted asylum by Ecuador on the grounds of political persecution, with the presumption that if he was extradited to Sweden, he would be eventually extradited to the US.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and a coalition of other civil rights organizations are calling on federal prosecutors to release on bail two New York attorneys who are accused of throwing Molotov cocktails into an empty New York police car during protests in Brooklyn on May 30. The lawyers — Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman — are facing a minimum of 45 years in prison if convicted on the federal charges. The two were initially released on bail, but then the federal government challenged the bail conditions, sending them back to pretrial detention — a move that shocked many in the legal community since neither Mattis nor Rahman have a criminal history.
The no-bail movement was on a roll from Vermont and New Jersey to Alaska and Georgia – and then the lock ‘em up mob struck back. The national drive to reduce jail and prison populations are getting an unexpected nudge from the coronavirus pandemic, as many cities and counties across the country try to reduce exposure to the virus in crammed, unsanitary jails. One of their first targets: bail. To bail-reform advocates across America, this change is a no-brainer: Why incarcerate anyone, pandemic or no, just because they can’t post a cash bond? Their movement looked like a national wave just a couple of years ago, as states from Vermont and New Jersey to Alaska and Georgia rolled out new bail policies to reduce the number of people in jail. These ideas ranged from minor tweaks for only the lowest-level crimes to blanket eliminations of cash bail.
Atlanta's City Council just unanimously voted and adopted a move to reform Atlanta’s cash bail system, which frequently targets, jails and ultimately upends the lives of its poorest citizens for some of the most minor and non-violent misdemeanors. The decision took a heated six hours to reach a 13-0 vote, and has become the latest protest in a growing number of concerted efforts against the American justice system's notorious bail scam. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed the proposal that stipulated people guilty of nuisance offenses should not be jailed for unnecessarily lengthy durations—think in terms of days, weeks and months—simply because they do not have the financial power to pay fines starting at $100 and going up to $500 and more.
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted to end cash bail on Thursday—a system that overwhelmingly punishes poor offenders by forcing them to stay in jail while they await trial after an arrest. Recently elected District Attorney Larry Krasner has been leading the council on pressing issues of criminal justice reform, along with council member Curtis Jones Jr. According to The Philadelphia Tribune, Jones said during the council session last week, “I’m calling for an end to the cash bail system in the city of Philadelphia.” Jones continued: Mr. President [Darrell Clarke] in our research we found out that a cash bail system came from a 1,000 year old medieval system that was created to make sure that they knew, even then, that jails were too costly. And so we should let the accuser go if they were not a danger to themselves or society.
By Aviva Shen for RSN - The U.S. is just one of two nations in the world with a money bail system (the other is the Philippines). The system means that people are held in jail while they wait for trial, unless they can afford to pay to go free. Defendants who can’t pay their way out of jail often lose their jobs, homes, children, and sometimes even their lives. Courts across the country are starting to face legal and legislative challenges to their bail systems. And New Orleans has become a key battleground, as lawmakers try to shake its legacy as “the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the world.” The bail bonds industry has argued that financial collateral is the only effective way to ensure defendants return to court for their trial. Starting in the spring, the Orleans Parish criminal district court decided to test this theory with a pilot program that came close to approximating what it would be like if the court eliminated bail altogether. It used a risk assessment tool to identify who was most likely to return to court without incident—and then it released them without making them pay. The result? People released in the pilot returned to court at roughly the same rate as defendants in other commissioners’ courtrooms, according to a new report by the civilian court monitoring group Court Watch Nola. The rearrest rate was also comparable, although somewhat higher, at 4.5% rather than 2.9%. In all, 9 people out of 201 people in the program were arrested again after they were released without bail. The findings help debunk warnings by opponents that replacing money bail will release dangerous criminals into the streets and allow fugitives to flee from justice.
By Auditi Guha for Rewire - Following on the heels of a successful campaign to bail out more than 100 Black women last month, about 25 organizations around the country are now seeking to bail out Black fathers and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people. Stewart Malone went to jail this week for three unpaid parking tickets issued within the past six months, and thought he would stay there because he could not afford a $900 bail. A father of five in Dothan, Alabama, Malone, 31, told Rewire he was stunned when a local pastor walked in with the money to set him free Friday afternoon. “I felt blessed,” he said. “I thought I had no way of making bail or getting the money. I just prayed and prayed, wondering how I would get out, missing my family.” Following on the heels of a successful campaign to bail out more than 100 Black women last month, about 25 organizations around the country—such as Southerners on New Ground, the Movement for Black Lives, and Dream Defenders—are now seeking to bail out Black fathers and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people in time for Father’s Day (June 18), Juneteenth (June 19) and Pride month. “We are planning a series of bailouts this June,” Arissa Hall, an organizer of the National Bail Outcampaign, told Rewire. “This is just a multifaceted bailout. Obviously we do hope that we have the same level of enthusiasm and support as we had for mothers’ Bail Out Day.”
By Janine Jackson for FAIR - Janine Jackson: National Mama’s Bailout Day aimed, successfully, to get dozens of incarcerated black women home for Mother’s Day. The action could be supported with data: Black women are 44 percent of the US jail population, 80 percent of women in jail have young children, 82 percent are in custody for nonviolent offenses, and many are not convicted of anything at all. Or we could ask philosophically: Given that our society predicates a great deal on the idea of law as an equalizer, is it acceptable that anyone is jailed for an inability to pay a cash amount? Well, Mama’s Bailout Day was about data and ideas, but first and foremost, it was about mamas. Our next guest was one of the organizers behind it. Arissa Hall is project manager at the National Bail Fund Network, which is housed at Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. She joins us now by phone from Brooklyn. Welcome to CounterSpin, Arissa Hall. Arissa Hall: Thank you for having me. JJ: One of the things I appreciate about this action, about Mama’s Bailout Day, is that it’s lateral. It’s about a system, the bail system, but it’s not an action that simply says, hey, look at this bad system. It’s person to person. What can you tell us about how Mama’s Bailout Day came to happen?
By Jarvis DeBerry for The Times-Picayune. If ours is a country where people are presumed innocent until they're proved guilty, then we shouldn't demand that criminal suspects dig into their pockets to get out of jail before they are tried. If we are legitimately afraid that some suspects are a threat to the public, then we shouldn't be comfortable with them getting out before trial no matter how much money they can pay. In March, Loyola law professor Bill Quigley wrote about two Texas church ladies who spent almost a week in jail in New Iberia on the suspicion that they pilfered two hot dogs, milkshakes and an Icee from a convenience store. Even though they drove the 400 miles from Dallas to plead not guilty and present receipts they said proved their innocence, the judge decided that because they were from out of town, he needed to set bail to guarantee their appearance. He expected the women to come up with $1,740 each. They stayed in jail until an attorney in town heard about their plight and paid for their release.
By Sarah Lazare for AlterNet - For the nearly 8,000 people locked up in Cook County jail, and the 2,400 on house arrest, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty effectively does not exist. Roughly 95 percent of those incarcerated have not faced trial or conviction of any kind, the vast majority of them ensnared simply because they are unable to afford bond. Those forced to languish in indefinite detention are disproportionately African American, and their pretrial punishments can permanently set their lives off-course, causing them to lose jobs, custody of their children, their housing, and even their lives.