Many in Pennsylvania have gone through the financial pressure brought on by a loved one’s need for a cash bond after being arrested and charged with a crime. Without the money, they were unable to leave jail, but coming up with the amount is sometimes difficult or impossible, and that can have serious repercussions on a person’s life. Two senators have introduced a bill to try to change this system so that the ability to pay is not what keeps people in jail.
As they explain in their New York Times op-ed, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are sponsoring the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act to end the bail pretrial detention system, which costs taxpayers $14 billion a year and is more likely to detain the poor and the marginalized. Bail amounts are more likely to be higher for black and Latino men than for white men who commit similar crimes, by 35 percent and 19 percent, respectively. This can cause people to lose their jobs, and in some causes, to have custody of their children taken away as well.
As the USA Today reports, the bill would allow jurisdictions in up to six states to award grants totaling $10 million to find an alternative, non-financial, system that encourages people to return for their court dates. In fact, studies show that detaining people for at least 24 hours before release made them less likely to appear in court. The bill stipulates that the programs would need to find a way to release 85 percent of the people who are awaiting their day in court. The senators say our current system punishes people for being poor, which is unconstitutional.