Innocent Until Proven Guilty, So Why Do a Half Million Unconvicted People Remain in Jail Each Day?
Date:  10-12-2015

Massachusetts is taking on bail system that targets people of color and the poor
Via Harvard Crimson

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The Commonwealth’s criminal justice system needs reform


Last week, public policy think tank Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, also known as MassINC, released a study that highlights the racial and ethnic disparities in Massachusetts’ jail population. The study found that black defendants awaiting trial are greatly overrepresented in some areas of the state, attributable, in part, to far higher average bail amounts. This speaks to a larger trend of racial disparity in incarceration in Massachusetts. Though the state has one of the lowest overall incarceration rates in the country, the numbers for black residents are closer to the national average and relatively high for Latinos.

The study and its results stand as an indictment of the way the criminal justice system works in Massachusetts and across the nation, where too many people, and especially people of color are funneled into a broken prison system. Luckily, the Commonwealth has a readily available way to improve its problem: Legislation currently before the House would introduce risk assessment tools to promote a fairer pretrial process.

Imprisoning those who have yet to face a judge only perpetuates unfavorable circumstances. Approximately half a million people on any given day sit in jail due to their inability to pay bail. Setting a high cash bail amount that the pretrial detainees are unlikely to afford is unnecessary and detrimental: Awaiting trial in jail is disadvantageous to the defendant and can lead to loss of unemployment, housing, and social support.

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