May 10, 2018

WATCH: Mark Holden Teams with Google and Other Leading Advocates to Push for Bail Reform

Post by Freedom Partners

Earlier this week, Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden joined Google and a group of leading experts and advocates for a discussion on the need to reform the country’s bail system.

As Holden explained, “we need to be risk-based, and not resource-based in how we decide who gets out after they’re arrested. There’s no way on earth that the amount of money you have is a proxy for public safety.”

You can learn more about this collaboration on bail reform by clicking here, and you can watch Holden’s full remarks by clicking on the video below.

Today, Holden and Malika Saada Saar, Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights, penned a joint op-ed in The Daily Beast elaborating on the need to fix our broken bail system. The following are key excerpts from the op-ed. To read the full piece, click here.

America’s Broken Bail System Substitutes Cash for Justice, Leaves Poor Behind Bars

Malika Saada Saar and Mark Holden | The Daily Beast

The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of American justice. But tonight, more than 450,000 people across the United States will sit in a jail cell awaiting trial.

While some of these individuals pose a flight risk or a danger to the community, many simply cannot afford to pay their court-assigned bail. In New York City, even when bail is set at $500 or less, “only 15 percent of defendants are able to come up with the money to avoid jail,” according to a 2015 New York Times report.

Our bail practices open doors – literally – to those with greater access to cash while trapping the poor behind bars, often for weeks or months at a time.

When defendants are held in jail because they can’t afford to pay, they are likely to lose their jobs and find themselves deeper in crisis. That puts public safety at risk. Research has found that low-risk defendants detained for just two to three days are nearly 40 percent more likely to commit new crimes before trial than those who are held 24 hours or less.

There are fairer and more effective data-driven practices consistent with fundamental principles of liberty and based on a smart-on-crime and soft-on-taxpayers approach. Defendants could be detained based on the risks they present, not their ability to pay a given monetary sum. Basing someone’s freedom on the ability to afford bail exacerbates the two-tiered system that already exists between the wealthy and everyone else. Encouragingly, policymakers across the country have begun implementing reforms with promising results.

Private organizations such as Google and the Charles Koch Institute have increasingly become involved in a movement–spearheaded by advocates at the state and local level—to achieve nationwide bail reform. Google has decided it’s best to ban ads for bail bonds that frequently target vulnerable users with murky financing terms and confusing language. For its part, the Charles Koch Institute is partnering with the Pretrial Justice Institute to commission a nationwide poll measuring public sentiment of bail and pretrial practices to inform future policy decisions.

Americans are compassionate and caring, but our pretrial practices are often anything but. It’s time for lawmakers, practitioners and communities to come together to develop workable reforms to the bail system that protect the rights of the accused while safeguarding the public. We stand ready to do our part.


Learn More:

Nine out of ten defendants who remain in jail before trial are there because they haven’t posted a bond. Low-income people often struggle to come up with even the small amount needed, trapping them in incarceration before they are even found guilty of a crime.

Those trapped in jail without the resources to post bail are more likely to plead guilty, and are more likely to receive a harsher punishment.

The bail system also disproportionately impacts minorities. Bond amounts for black men are 35 percent higher than white men, and bond amounts for Latino males are 19 percent higher.

According to U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), people awaiting trial accounted for 95 percent of the growth in the jail population from 2000 to 2014, and it costs roughly $38 million every day to imprison these largely nonviolent defendants. That adds up to $14 billion a year.

recent study by the Buckeye Institute found that in Ohio alone, proposed reforms to the bail system could save approximately $67 million in jail costs.