As explained in the New York Times, last month Harvey Weinstein—serial sexual predator finally charged for rape–posted $1 million bail, and was on his way home within 10 minutes. Weinstein is a notorious danger to the public and he hasn’t spent a moment in jail because he’s rich.
Some of the people who cannot make cash bail, like an 18 year old black male by the name of Kalief Browder, never leave jail. Kalief Browder was held at Riker’s Island for three years, much of it in solitary confinement, because his family could not afford to pay his bail after he was accused of stealing a backpack. The state of New York worked for three years to build a case against him and failed. Kalief Browder, committed suicide after spending three years at Riker’s Island without being convicted of a crime.
In our current bail system, people who aren’t lucky enough to be rich can be locked away for years while they await trial, not because they are inherently dangerous or likely to flee, but because they are too poor to afford bail.
In fact, seventy percent of people in jail haven’t been convicted of a crime. They just can’t afford bail. The number of Americans sitting in jail without a conviction is larger than most other countries’ entire incarcerated population. As explained by “Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute: “The negative impact of jail starts to accrue after the first 24 hours, and it’s really bad by the third day.” In a criminal justice system that regularly targets and overpolices poor black and brown people, cash bail is inherently racist and must be ended now.
To understand the unfairness of the cash bail system, read America Is Waking Up to the Injustice of Cash Bail by Bryce Covert.