Aug 03, 2018

ICYMI: Freedom Partners and Pretrial Justice Institute: Americans are hungry for bipartisan pretrial justice reform

Post by Freedom Partners

Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden and Pretrial Justice Institute Chief Executive Officer Cherise Fanno Burdeen  |  The Hill

Jessica Preston was jailed when she was eight months pregnant after driving on a suspended license. Though she posed no public safety threat, the suburban Detroit mother was required to post a $10,000 bond. Like most Americans, she didn’t have that kind of money, so she was put behind bars.

A few days later, Preston began having contractions. She asked to go to the hospital, but her request was denied. With no doctor present, she gave birth on the floor of Michigan’s Macomb County Jail.

As the nation rightly focuses on family separations and incarceration at the U.S.-Mexico border, most Americans aren’t aware of the over-incarceration plaguing countless Americans like Preston.

A newly released nationwide poll from the Pretrial Justice Institute and the Charles Koch Institute shows most Americans believe the pretrial system is unfair and want reform. More than three-quarters of respondents said the bail system favors the wealthy over poor or working-class people. A slightly smaller majority, including half of white respondents, said the system favors people who are white.

The money bail system is not a proxy for public safety. In fact, the system does not advance public safety at all. Research shows even three days behind bars before trial makes a person nearly 40 percent more likely to be arrested again compared to a statistically similar person released within 24 hours of arrest.

Our poll confirms the growing, bipartisan consensus for pretrial justice reform. While people on the left traditionally support reform, conservative energy is also strong and growing, with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky sponsoring legislation with Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California to help states improve their bail systems.

The Constitution is clear that no one should be put behind bars before trial when he or she is not a threat to public safety. Recently, several federal court cases have challenged the very constitutionality of money bail. Just this week, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this principle, ruling that there is no constitutional right to cash bail.

Jessica Preston’s experience does not have to keep happening. We must reform the nation’s bail policies. The time for change is now.

Click HERE to read the full op-ed.