The Bail Bond Crisis in America
Date:  08-24-2015

Seventy percent of pre-trail detainees are locked up because they can’t afford bail
The bail bond system in America is coming under increasing scrutiny as states try to curtail the rising costs of mass incarceration. Originally created to increase the probability of a person appearing in court, high bail was set for people committing serious crimes. In many cases those who are major players in the drug trade or arrested for gang-related crimes are able to afford high bail, and walk out of jail, while the homeless and those with low-incomes who can’t afford to pay the lowest amount of bail for petty crimes suffer collateral consequences such as losing a job, or getting evicted, as they wait for their cases to be resolved.

A fact sheet put out by the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition sheds light on how flawed the bail bond system is.
  • Nationwide, 60% of our incarcerated population are pretrial - as in, they haven't been convicted of anything.

  • Nationwide, 70% of those held pretrial, are detained because they are unable to afford the bail set.

  • Nationwide, our ineffective pretrial system costs the country $9 Billion annually.

  • Statistically, those who are detained pretrial have worse outcomes than those who are able to afford bail.

  • In Massachusetts, everyday, over 5,000 people are held pretrial.

    Earlier this month the New York Times published an article, The Bail Trap, which followed the cases of several individuals who were held in jail because they could not pay bail after being charged with minor crimes. The Times wrote that in even when bail is set at $500 only 15% of defendants can come up with that amount.

    Massachusetts is now looking into bail bond reform after grassroots organizations took on the issue and got the attention of State legislators. Their neighbor to the South, Connecticut, is also grappling with the same issue, but according to the Hartford Courant, Connecticut has a “heaven-sent” opportunity in the form of a $150,000 grant to reduce incarceration by “changing the way America thinks about and uses jails” Read more.

    The Massachesetts organization, Pretrial Working Group has compiled a list of articles from around the country related to the urgent need of bail reform. Read them here.