There are many things wrong with the criminal justice system in America, but few people give thought to how money bonds intensify the inequities within the system. For example, throughout the state of Illinois, there are many people currently sitting in jail only because they cannot afford the bond that the court system imposes upon them.
Money bonds effectively turn the system into “guilty until proven innocent” for those without the means to pay, and “innocent until proven guilty” for those with deep pockets. According to the ACLU of Illinois, nearly two-thirds of individuals currently detained before a conviction would be walking free if they could afford their money bond.
Why should we change this policy?
There are many reasons why money bonds highlight the inequities in the criminal justice system. The existence of money bonds means that how long (or even whether) somebody is in jail is directly linked to the amount of money they have.
Pretrial incarceration also has several deleterious effects on the lives of normal people. For instance, it can cause individuals to lose their jobs, the custody of their children and their housing. Plus, after a month in jail persons on Medicaid or other public benefit programs lose their access, which can have seriously negative effects on a person’s health and welfare.
What else should I know?
There is no evidence that paying a money bond increases court appearance. It is also notable that the use of money bonds serves merely to heighten the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Cash bonds are a scourge upon the criminal justice system both in Chicago and around the United States.