Justice Reform

Ending Cash Bail Helps Reduce Prison Overcrowding

Many individuals sitting in jail waiting for trial are simply there because they cannot afford to post bail. It is an issue statewide that many struggle with, as the United States is the only country that uses a cash bail system. Currently, there are more than 470,000 pretrial detainees simply because they cannot afford to post bail, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. “The median bail amount for felonies is $10,000, which represents 8 months of income for a typical person detained”, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. These individuals have not been convicted of a crime but are still sitting in jail, which is unfair to those who cannot afford it. Those who can are comfortably at home awaiting their trial.

An article was published about how one attorney for Chittenden County State, Attorney Sarah George, has not been requesting cash bail in pretrial cases since January. She believes it is unjust that some people are in jail only because they cannot afford bail. She is making a difference for those who cannot post bail by not requiring it, allowing less people to sit in jail while they await trial. “And that’s, you know, losing their jobs and losing their housing and potentially losing their kids and disrupting the stability of relationships within their community”, says Sarah George. Currently, Vermont allows individuals to post bail with 10% of the bail amount paid but even then, many struggle to come up with these funds. The system spends more on keeping individuals on pretrial than the cash bail system brings in.

States are starting to recognize the difficulty that a cash bail system has on individuals and have reduced the use of cash bail. It tears families apart and makes a difficult time even more challenging. All individuals deserve the same right and fair access to not sit in jail while awaiting pretrial and the diminishing of using a cash bail system is one step in this positive direction.