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On Criminalizing Poverty
Fighting to end money bond
Advocates in Illinois are waging a fight to end money bond — a system they say punishes those with the least resources who encounter the criminal justice system.
Here’s more from NewsBreak:
“Before I was incarcerated pretrial, I had a thriving business and was able to provide for myself and my two children,” said Lavette Mayes, a mother who was incarcerated for 14 months awaiting trial because she could not afford her money bond. “I lost all of that simply because I couldn’t afford to pay a money bond set by a judge in a matter of 30 seconds with no consideration of my lack of a criminal record or the fact that I had a five and a 14-year-old to take care of at home. People shouldn’t have to go through that nightmare experience.”
Proponents of the so-called “Pretrial Fairness Act” suggest there are other ways to ensure those accused of crimes show up for court dates and also that ending money bond will not adversely impact public safety.
“The time to end money bond in Illinois has arrived,” stated Ben Ruddell, Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the ACLU of Illinois. “We are confident that the Court will see that this law is constitutional, and that the policy will benefit thousands across Illinois. No one should be forced to languish in jail pretrial simply because they do not have resources.”
The idea of money bond - or bail - is that if an accused criminal puts up some cash, they are more likely to show up for their court date. Of course, not showing up in and of itself is punishable by incarceration - so, that could be seen as a deterrent.
For the most serious crimes, it seems that money bond may make sense - a person may risk skipping town (or the country) in order to avoid a possible tough sentence. But for many crimes, it seems all money bond does is end up sending the least among us to jail while they wait for the wheels of justice to slowly turn.
Think about the case above - waiting in jail for 14 months - instead of working, caring for family, and seeking to improve your life. Meanwhile, those with means who may stand accused of even more serious crimes rejoin society and even work to build a case to allow them to avoid conviction.
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