Target: John Boehner, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Goal: Put an end to unfair for-profit bail system that creates a wealth-based discriminatory system.
The commercial bail industry is systematically exploiting this country’s poor and letting off the rich. The bail system in the United States works as an insurance policy guaranteeing that an individual accused of a crime will return to court for trial.
Many accused are denied bail for particularly heinous crimes; however, the majority of the accused that wait in jail for trial are simply unable to pay the set bail. As a result, at any time of the year, over 450,000 inmates who have yet to be proven guilty are awaiting trial, which can cause the community to presume guilt and creates an expense that is paid by tax dollars.
The other option is to use a bondsman. The problem is that the bondsmen take 10 percent, so even though the court will pay back the bail once the accused appears for their trial, they will still owe the bondsman a sum that many individuals of a lower socioeconomic status cannot afford. For example, if the bail is set at $50,000, the accused is still on the hook for $5,000 plus interest in the case of late payment, and bail bondsmen are legally allowed to take extreme measures when collecting their payment, including breaking into the homes of the debtors.
Take the example of Sandra Bland, who was arrested in Texas after a traffic violation turned into resisting arrest. Her family was attempting to secure the 10 percent–only $500–in order to use a bail bondsman, when three days after her arrest she was found dead in her cell.
There are other alternatives to the for-profit bail system. Kentucky uses pretrial officers to conduct risk assessment on defendants in order to set reasonable and nondiscriminatory bail. Defendants are also allowed to pay 10 percent of the bail in either cash or property bonds, which is entirely returned to the defendant once they appear for trial. In the United States, there are only four states which have ended the commercial bail system, and their attendance of felony defendants at trial are 94 percent.
Sign the petition below to urge the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States to put an end to commercial bail in an attempt to lessen the wealth-based discrimination of our criminal justice system.
Dear Speaker Boehner,
Commercial bail systems create an unfair socioeconomic discrimination of individuals awaiting trial. With bail bondsmen charging 10 percent of the set bail amount plus interest, a wealthy individual accused of homicide would be allowed to return to their job, family, and freedom while an impoverished individual accused of a much lesser crime would be kept in jail, creating community bias towards guilt.
Functional alternatives for the commercial bail systems exist in other states wherein defendants are appointed a pretrial officer who assesses the risk of each defendant. Then a reasonable sum is set for bail that is not only within the defendant’s means, the 10 percent can be paid in cash or property bonds which are returned to the defendant once they appear for trial. In these states, 94 percent of felony defendants appear for trial, which demonstrates that this is a viable alternative to for-profit bail systems.
I am urging you to put an end to the commercial bail system that creates such wealth-based discrimination in our criminal justice system. Please take actions to enforce policies that discourage such unfair treatment of individuals in the system.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: V1ctor Casale