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Dutchess_III's avatar

How is a "cash bail" part of systemic racisim?

Asked by Dutchess_III (45438points) February 22nd, 2021

Illionois becomes the first state to eliminate cash bail.
It claims this is somehow supposed to be combating systemic racism. Whut? How else is anyone supposed to pay their bail? Check? Credit card?
I’m confused. What does cash have to do with systemic racism?

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8 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

It isn’t about the method of payment. It’s unfair to those who haven’t the money to pay the fine—the poor. Now let’s consider just what that word “poor” means in for example Chicago or our Southern jurisdictions. I don’t think there is a court left in the country that won’t take a credit card or check. It’s a system where only the poor sit in jail.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Let’s take an example a cash bond or bail of $20,000 in NY.
If a person has savings or friends it is relatively easy to come up with the $20k. After the rial the $20,000 is returned minus about $600 in fees of some sort.
If someone does not have the money they are forced to get it from a bail bondsman who will (supposedly) give the $20,000 to the court. For this privilege, the person needs to give the put bail bondsman 10% upfront, $2000, and pay monthly fees and pay the court and other charges fee. That might end up totaling $5000.
A poor person cannot come up with the cash and is forced to either sit in jail and rack up large charges while the richer person pays a small fee and is free.
And theoretically the person is still innocent until proven guilty.
A bail as low as $500 can be devastating to some people who need that to pay their rent, or car payment, or food.

By the way I used the word “supposedly” in quotes. In my county in NY, the bail bondsman’s office is right across the street from the jail. It is a slick business. They don’t actually transfer any money to the court. They just promise to pay it. They can charge whatever they like, e.g. 10%, 15%, etc. since the person is desperate and cannot come up with the cash bond.

jca2's avatar

Good point, @LuckyGuy. It’s like the sham insurance companies being right across the street from the Department of Motor Vehicles. They’re legit companies but they probably charge high rates to people who are desperate to get their cars registered.

Darth_Algar's avatar

And to add to what @LuckyGuy said -

When you’re sitting in jail then you can’t work. If you can’t work then you can’t keep lights on, you can’t feed your family, you can’t build up the funds needed for your bail, etc. This financial hardship alone pressures many people to take a guilty plea (even when they are completely innocent) on lesser charges simply so they can get out of jail and back to their jobs and family.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

In a nutshell, this is America. In “The Land of the Free” you get all the justice you can afford. “Justice”= Racket. Similar to our “Health Care” system.

zenvelo's avatar

Many white people are released on their own recognizance for minor offenses, while poor people of color are held on bail, even if it is only $500 or $1,000.

Add to that a disproportionate application of the law applied to people of color, and it is part of the structural racism of the criminal “justice” system.

Irukandji's avatar

“How is a ‘cash bail’ part of systemic racism?”

Because racial bias effects bail decisions.

“How else is anyone supposed to pay their bail? Check? Credit card?”

Check and credit card are both ways of transferring cash. So like @stanleybmanly said, it’s not about the method of payment. One alternative to cash bail, however, is property bond. In jurisdictions that allow it, you can use your property as collateral. And just like the bail bondsman that @LuckyGuy described, you don’t even have to hand over the property. You just promise to surrender it if you fail to meet the conditions of your bail.

Not everyone will have enough property to secure their bail in this way, but it has the advantage of not requiring an actual transfer or loss until one has actually violated the terms of their bail. Because let’s remember that bail only applies to people who have not yet been convicted of a crime (and therefore have a legal presumption of freedom and innocence).

Of course, we could also eliminate the whole notion of paying bail in favor of other methods of securing someone’s appearance in court. House arrest and electronic monitoring are two alternatives already in use, and they don’t cost the defendant a penny. That wouldn’t solve everything—there’s still racism and classism in the algorithms we use to assess risk—but it would cut down on the effects of pretrial detention.

crazyguy's avatar

@LuckyGuy Bail is supposed to guarantee the defendant’s appearance in court. And hopefully to protect the citizenry from additional crimes committed by the released person. Therefore, most courts in the country are supposed to evaluate both factors. Obviously, the first factor depends on the bail amount as a percentage of net worth. If that is done, the rich theoretically should have as hard a time with posting bail as the poor.

There is a problem with Bail Schedules posted in many jails. These schedules set fixed bail amounts for common offenses, and do favor the rich. Also, fixed bail schedules allow the imposition of the harshest possible crime supported by the circumstances in order to increase the bail amount. The worst that happens in such cases is that the DA decides to charge a lesser crime, but the damage has already been done.

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