Monday, December 11, 2017 – from Kat Brady

Today’s post is all about bail. We lead off with a reminder of the ACLU meeting on Wednesday, December 13thACLU FLYER

            The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii is holding its Annual Meeting and Bill of Rights Day Celebration on  12/13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Maui Room (second floor). We are devoting our meeting to a discussion of how local bail practices drive dangerous conditions at O‘ahu Community Correctional Center (and all county jails) – and what can be done in the 2018 Hawai‘i State Legislature to fix it.  Before any plan to rebuild or expand our jail system, our communities deserve to take a hard look at criminal justice reforms that improve public safety while reducing the number of people we lock up – especially people not convicted of any crime.

            I have attached a flyer for your convenience, and we appreciate any help you can give us to get the word out. Please join us!  You can RSVP by emailing “office@acluhawaii.org” or calling (808) 522-5906.

            Today we share excerpts from articles on bail reform strategies and the issues therein. This is a burning topic for us in Hawai`i since half of the population of O`ahu’s jail (OCCC) are pretrial detainees – innocent until proven guilty. At $152 a day to imprison a person at OCCC, the community must ask – why are we paying so much to lock up poor folks when we could provide services that would be more beneficial to their and the community’s well-being, costs less and reduces the harm? Bail is a complex issue and I am glad that ACLU is helping the community understand the issue.

Locked Up for Being Poor? Chicago Just Took a Big Step Forward in Bail Reform

Activists are lauding a new court order while continuing to push for the end of money bond.

Bail Reform Article BY ABBY LYNN KLINKENBERG  JULY 25, 2017

Evans’ order lends further momentum to bail reform, which a number of states and counties have enacted in recent months. 

Decarceration activists are lauding a groundbreaking new order issued by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans as a tentative victory in the fight to abolish money bond and pretrial detention.

            Illinois’ Circuit Court of Cook County is the second largest unified court system in the United States. Evans’ order prohibits the court from setting money bond, or bail, at an amount that exceeds what a defendant is able to pay. That’s expected to reduce the number of defendants who remain incarcerated for months—or even years—while they await trial, even though they pose no danger to the public.

            At present, about 62 percent of those detained in Cook County Jail, some 4,000 people, “are being incarcerated pretrial for being poor,” according to Matthew McLoughlin, co-founder of the Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF), which advocates for the end of money bond. CCBF says that longer periods of pretrial incarceration result in higher rates of conviction and longer sentences, in addition to lost employment, housing and other hardships for defendants eventually found innocent. …

On The Long History of Bail  By Wendy Shang  October 3, 20107

Excerpt:

 …When someone says that money bail is a fundamental right and is as old as the republic, then, they are trying to glide past some critical details. The form of bail in virtually all criminal cases during Colonial times was a combination of personal sureties and recognizance, meaning that there was no up-front requirement to pay, and sureties had to show their ability to pay the amount set if the defendant failed to return to trial. …

… Proponents of for-profit bail have tried to twist the prohibition against excessive bail into a right to bail—but not to affordable bail—in all cases, but history shows differently. The prohibition on excessive bail does not establish a right to bail in all cases, only those cases that are bailable in the first place. Moreover, historically, the detention of bailable individuals for any reason, including the lack of money, has always led to reform.

When someone tries to make commercial, for-profit bonding sound like a long-standing tradition, it helps to know the details of history and how deviating from that history implicates our current conditions, policies, and values. We also need to look to the future, using the legal and evidence-based tools available to us, to make the best and most just decisions we can at this critical stage of the legal process.

Ditching the Bondsman is Only Part of the Battle for Bail Reform, Rebecca McCray, Journalist with the Fair Punishment Project, Harvard Law School, Nov 22, 2017.

The five states that have done away with commercial bond outlets still struggle with inequity when it comes to cash bail.

            Of the criminal justice system’s many characters, the bounty hunter is perhaps the most cartoonish. Tasked with chasing down and capturing those who don’t — or can’t — pay back their debt to commercial bail outfits, this Old West relic has spawned multiple popular TV series. It’s easy to see why commercial bail and bounty hunters are emblematic of the ills of the cash bail system, which have increasingly come under fire from those pushing for criminal justice reform.

            While financial incentives questionably drive many parts of the criminal justice system, the perversity of profiting from incarceration is laid bare in the bond industry, in which people who haven’t yet been charged with a crime pay a nonrefundable fee for their freedom. Five states in the U.S. have done away with commercial bail bonding, either by statute or by changing the way courts collect cash bail: Illinois, Oregon, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. Getting rid of for-profit bail shops may be an important step toward amending the many facets of the bail system that work against the low-income people who are most likely to be locked up. But organizers in states without commercial bonds are struggling with many of the same issues as those in states where the practice is still legal.

              “What we have is a court system that is itself profiting off of the bail program, which creates a perverse incentive for the government,” says Sharlyn Grace, co-founder of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which pays bond for those in Cook County jail who are unable to bail themselves out. …

            … While the bald profiteering of bail outlets makes them an obvious target for the reform movement, what’s happening on the ground in states like Wisconsin and Illinois illustrate that eliminating commercial bond is only a partial fix. (Of the states without commercial bail, Oregon appears to be the only one without a community bail fund movement.)

              “There are still definitely injustices in the system even though we don’t have bondsmen [in Wisconsin],” says Liepold. “There are still folks sitting in jail who shouldn’t be.”

2018 is shaping up to be an interesting session. The discontent with our government is palpable in the community. You might have read about  the shake-up in the Governorʻs office in the December 11th Star-Advertiser. 

Love, Kat