And Justice For All – Or Only Those Who Can Afford It?

Target:  Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller

Goal: Develop an equitable, non-financial based system for releasing accused offenders pending trial

Most of us tend to believe what we hear.  Much of what we hear comes to us through the media, no matter how accurate or inaccurate.  We are a nation of individuals that find closure in blaming “someone” for a given crime, whether or not the accused is truly guilty.

Our justice system is based on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.  Regardless of a defendant’s innocence or guilt, once accused, they may suffer unspeakable punishment by being held in jail pending trial.

For example, consider the case against Randy (not his real name).  He has been charged with theft of  less than $2000 through fraudulent means.  The alleged crime was committed non-violently and, despite having a clean criminal record, Randy’s bond was set at $12,000.  He was employed in a minimum wage  job at the time of the alleged crime, and one might speculate that this theft was allegedly committed because Randy’s family was struggling to raise money for his terminally ill mother’s final expenses.  He sits in one of the country’s roughest, most overcrowded prisons, awaiting hearings and trials, as he is financially unable to post bond.  There is no question that theft for any means is criminal and should not be condoned; however, guilt in this case has yet to be proven.

Alternatively, consider the charges against Jerry (not his real name).  He allegedly got into a physical fight and punched a teenager who was trying to break up the fight.  The teenager died of blunt force head trauma, and Jerry was charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery.  Jerry also had a clean criminal record and bond was set at $25,000.  Jerry’s family was able to post bond, and, despite allegedly taking a promising young life, he has not spent a single night in jail as he awaits trial.

The lives of both defendants, regardless of the outcomes of their cases, are changed forever.  The longer Randy stays in jail, the more removed he becomes from daily life on the outside and the harder it will be to rehabilitate and re-acclimate him to society.  Keep in mind that he has not been found guilty, but is nonetheless being punished.  Jerry will have to live with the consequences of his actions, regardless of the resolution of his case.  Yet, with more money at his disposal, he has at minimum avoided jail time thus far.

Please sign the petition below and speak up for those unable to afford the financial cost of our justice system.

PETITION LETTER

Dear Attorney General Madigan and Attorney General Zoeller,

Our justice system maintains that defendants are innocent until proven guilty.  However, release of alleged offenders while awaiting trial is generally based on ability to pay and creates an unbalanced penal system.

Two cases currently pending, one in Illinois and the other in Indiana, illustrate this point.  Both defendants are first time alleged offenders. One comes from a poor family and is accused of a non-violent crime, but can not post bond due to a lack of financial resources.  Until he receives his “speedy trial”, he endures the punitive nature of jail.  The second defendant is charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery.  His family was immediately able to post bond, and he walks among us freely while awaiting trial.

We must find a way to create a more equitable means of assuring access to reasonable freedom while awaiting trial, particularly for non-violent offenders.

Sincerely,

[Your name goes here]

Sign the Petition

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3 Comments

  1. Cara Ehrlich says:

    Sadly, justice is all about who you know and what you have – not innocence or guilt.

  2. I couldn’t imagine any thing worse than being accused of something you didn’t do and not having the means to pay for the service of a solicitor or barrister.

  3. Muriel Servaege says:

    I sign that with … both hands!

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