Bail, as I’m sure you all know, is money or valuable property put into a bond so that someone charged with a crime can be released from jail pending resolution of the charges.
On paper, it’s not a terrible system. It frees up jail space. It allows the accused to better participate in defending themselves against the charges. It also allows them to at least attempt to continue a somewhat normal life – going to work, caring for children, etc. – as the “wheels of justice turn slowly.”
The problem in practice is you can only be released on bail if you can afford bail.
That’s a problem for our criminal justice system, as the ACLU of North Dakota points out in a press release today.
“Whether or not you are in jail should not depend on your ability to pay for your freedom. Yet that’s the way our current cash bail system works,” Dane DeKrey, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy director, is quoted as saying in the release (read it in full below). “This system of wealth-based incarceration keeps people who have not been convicted of a crime in jail for weeks, months and even years. People lose their families, jobs and homes as they wait for their case to move through the system. Money should never decide a person’s freedom, yet that’s exactly what happens every day in courts across the state.”