Letter: Do away with cash bail
The Bail Project is a national nonprofit that works to combat mass incarceration by identifying the issue at the front end with pretrial detention. We post bail free of charge and assist the client with supportive services throughout the duration of their case.
The Bail Project's Detroit office has posted bail over 270 people, securing their freedom at no cost to them. Every single one of them represents the staggering 62% of those currently being held in the Wayne County jail without a single conviction.
Essentially, the only thing stopping their release is their inability to pay their bail, sometimes as low as $100. On the national scale, at any given time, close to 450,000 people are in pretrial detention without any means to buy their freedom.
This speaks to a larger crisis at hand, when the most economically vulnerable community members are being criminalized before they’ve ever seen a day in court.
Cash bail is an unfair and predatory mechanism that further destabilizes the livelihood of those incarcerated, their families and their community. One of my first bail outs was a 24-year-old Detroit man held at Wayne County for $1,000. A typical bail amount. He was locked up for a month before we intervened. But, by then, he had already lost his job and to make matters worse, his girlfriend had to quit her job to be available to their four young children. This family went from a two-income household to zero because they could not afford the cash bail. And still the client was then expected to pay the added expense of an electronic monitor out of pocket.
Michigan must do better. The solution to criminal justice reform does not lie in jails or electronic monitoring.
The solution is found in compassionate, wrap-around service intervention.
Rasha Almulaiki, senior client advocate
The Bail Project