Sunday, December 1, 2013

Showing Support for the Rise in "Payment Plans" for the Poor Who Can't Make Bail

Poverty and crime are endemic in the inner city, and as a consequence the issue of bail hearings oftentimes becomes a consequential event. Many poor people accused of crime are not able to afford bail, and so they end up languishing in prison while awaiting trial. In many instances, especially for non-violent or "minimally violent" crimes like an assault such as a fistfight, I think that the courts are creating a situation that can cause irreparable harm to individuals and families, and frankly I believe that the issue raises serious 8th Amendment implications.

Let's remember that these people are simply accused of crimes and hence presumed innocent. When a poor person is unable to make what I believe are unreasonably high bail, given their circumstances, forcing them to remain in prison often times leads them to lose their jobs and in some cases their families, further exacerbating the poverty issue. I find it unconscionable that judges set bail that has the consequence of causing these innocent people to lose their jobs or their family status.

The reason I raise this issue is because an article appeared in today's Trenton Times that for the most part seemed to decry the recent trend of bail bondsmen offering "payment plans" for those accused of crimes but unable to afford the relatively high bail amounts. I think this idea is wonderful, especially for those accused of non-violent crimes. These plans are obviously being done out of self interest and not some noble gesture, but the effect is the same. Rather than try to reign in these arrangements, I hope they are expanded and opportunity is afforded to more and more people to find a way to remain free while they await trial.

How does society possibly benefit by having a poor person accused of a non-violent crime to be forced to remain in jail and either lose their job or lose the ability to look for work. Our jails are full of such people, and I find it nothing more than another example of the disdain or disinterest we show to the poor in our society. I think it is unconstitutional, and I would love to see the issue challenged in court. Citizens with the presumption of innocence should be treated more fairly, It is as simple as that.

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