Cash Bail Reform

“Freedom should never be compromised for corporate profits. Many families are unable to afford the profit-driven price of bail. Their loved ones remain locked up for weeks, months, and even years. While in jail, they can lose their families, jobs, and homes as they wait for their day in court. This is morally wrong.”

Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed the city’s bail reform bill that the city council passed unanimously last night. The city attorney called to make sure the ACLU GA was present for the for 10 AM signing & press conference. Before she sat down to sign the bill, the mayor specifically thanked Andrea Young, executive director, and Burrell Ellis, then-political director, for our work. The mayor also made it clear this is the beginning of criminal justice reform in Atlanta & asked for our help to continue.

Cash Bail is Modern Day Debtors’ Prison

Although debtors’ prisons were outlawed in the 19th century, thousands of Georgians are jailed each year, because they’re unable to post cash bail. Many states have already begun to address these issues with a smarter approach. For example, Kentucky releases without bail about 70% of people awaiting the resolution of their cases. According to a report published by the Administrative Office of the Courts, Kentucky Court of Justice, “89% of those make all their future court appearances and 92% are not re-arrested while they are on pretrial release. …  [Kentucky] reduces jail costs in that jail space is saved for the convicted and not the accused.  

59% of people in Georgia’s jails remain imprisoned without having been convicted of a crime.

Insurance Corporations Post $2 billion in Annual Profits from Cash Bail

The money bail system was originally designed to ensure that people returned to court as their case progressed. It has since transformed into a system where insurance companies target those least able to afford to pay bail, impacting lower-income and middle-class families alike.

According to a 2017 report by Color of Change and the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice, a small number of insurance companies collect their cut of nearly all the bail bond premiums collected by bail agencies. Nine bail insurers each underwrite a billion dollars in bonds to cover the vast majority of the estimated $14 billion in bonds posted by for-profit bail each year, yielding about $2 billion in industry profits

The ACLU of Georgia’s Position on Cash Bail

It’s past time to end our nation’s current system of cash bail, because it neither improves public safety nor is it just. The cash bail system is unfair to the majority of Georgia families. 

The purpose of bail is to ensure appearance in court. The ACLU of Georgia proposes more use of citations in lieu of arrests, rather than arrest-by-citation, for low level nonviolent offenses. This will reduce jail time, save taxpayer dollars, promote safety by keeping officers on the street instead of spending hours transporting people to jail for petty violations, and remove collateral damage that an arrest record imposes on families especially in housing, education, and job opportunities.

Because of the U.S. Constitution, we have a Bill of Rights. 

Because of the Constitution, we have guarantees of liberty and justice. 

Because of the Constitution, we have protections from authoritarian rule.
 
Because of the Constitution, we are protected, without warning, against search, seizure, arrest, incarceration … or possibly worse. 

As we move to become the more perfect union to which we espouse, we must hold true to the principles embedded in the U.S. Constitution which are designed to ultimately protect each of us and ensure our freedom.