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PRESS RELEASE

Contact:
Christina DiPasquale, 202.716.1953, christina@fitzgibbonmedia.com
Thomas Harvey, 314.482.3342, tharvey@archcitydefenders.org

In a judgment rendered in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Equal Justice Under Law and ArchCity Defenders, Velda City—a city in St. Louis County, Missouri—has ended the practice of requiring secured cash bail for all offenses prosecuted in municipal court. The landmark case has national pretrial justice advocates taking notice, as it offers a new way to overturn unconstitutional bail and money-based detention practices that keep poor defendants behind bars for no other reason than their inability to pay.

Said Alec Karakatsanis, attorney and co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law—one of the groups that filed the suit:

“No human being should be held in a cage, before or after trial, because of her poverty. This court ruling sets a precedent that should be applied nationally, ensuring that no arrested person remains in jail simply because they are too poor to pay bail.” (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

In the wake of the excessive and discriminatory use of court fees and money-based bail in Ferguson and Baltimore, the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) issued a POLICY STATEMENT ON THE PREDATORY COLLECTION OF COSTS, FINES, AND FEES IN AMERICA’S CRIMINAL COURTS calling for ending funding government on the backs of poor clients. Among other reforms, NAPD called for an end to money-based bail, which too often means that poor people stay in jail and lose their low wage jobs while people with money enjoy the presumption of innocence and their freedom.

Calling for change now, Tim Young, Ohio Public Defender and Chair of NAPD said, “We must have courts that are focused on justice not on collecting revenue. The presumption of innocence pretrial should not be for people with money while the poor stay jailed, disproportionately impacting people of color; especially when there is no evidence that money bail has any correlation with the risk of reoffending or showing up in court. A fair and balanced system of pretrial release ought to be based on public safety, not on the person’s status as rich or poor. ” (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

Statement from Pretrial Justice Institute Executive Director Cherise Fanno Burdeen upon news that all 6 accused murderers of Freddie Gray have posted bail while poorer protesters remain behind bars due to inability to pay:

"When accused murderers walk free because they have wealth, and a teen arrested for breaking a car window is stuck behind bars because of poverty, not risk, it undermines trust in our justice system.

Using exorbitant bond amounts and the suspension of the right to a speedy trial to punish communities already choked by oppression for rising up is not only poor policy, it also saddles these low-risk community members with a higher likelihood of being sentenced to jail or prison and makes them far more likely to commit a future crime, even if they were innocent in the first place. Time in jail leads to lost wages, lost jobs, and lost housing: and that can be hugely damaging to a person’s future chance at success. (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

Amid reports from Baltimore of excessive use of detention for protesters held without charges and assigned exorbitant bond amounts, Pretrial Justice Institute released the following statement from Executive Director Cherise Fanno Burdeen:

“Arrests, arbitrary bond amounts and pretrial detention should never be used as weapon against communities, even in moments of tension.

“Jailing people pretrial because they cannot afford bond is not only inhumane, it is unconstitutional. The use of sky-high bail amounts in Baltimore this week amount to premature guilty sentences for citizens who have not been convicted of any crime.

“The damage cannot be overstated: even short stints in jail before trial can lead to job and housing loss, destabilize families, and dramatically increase the likelihood of a person committing a crime in the future.

“Pretrial release decisions only should be made in consideration of two factors--flight risk or danger to the community. Where these two factors are absent, detention without charges subjects residents to further injustice as they mourn the death of Freddie Gray and demand answers about the circumstances of his death.”

Key facts: (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

In response to Hillary Clinton’s announced commitment today to “end the era of mass incarceration,” Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, made the following statement:

“Hillary Clinton today captured the spirit of what all Americans want from their justice system: fairness, equal treatment, and respect. Her call for the universal use of police body cameras is an important step toward reestablishing trust and transparency between police and the communities they serve, but more can and should be done to provide deep and sustainable solutions to end the ‘era of mass incarceration.’

“To tackle mass incarceration, we need to reduce arrests, specifically the number of Americans—disproportionately people from the African American and Latino communities—who are arrested for minor and low-level offenses. We must reform the system’s front end by curbing the millions of people booked into our nation’s jails who are held without conviction before trial every year. These pretrial practices serve as one of the ‘pipelines’ to mass incarceration Clinton referred to in her address to Columbia University today. (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

Bias-driven police brutality was not the only part of the criminal justice system under fire in yesterday’s DOJ report findings in Ferguson; the detention of people of color in large numbers without convictions also came under the microscope. Those findings aren’t unique to Ferguson, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, a national leader in the fight against discriminatory pretrial practices.

Statement from Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of Pretrial Justice Institute:

“Discrimination in Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg. Nationwide, communities of color are bearing the brunt of a discriminatory pretrial detention system that leaves those who can’t afford costly bond amounts behind bars from periods lasting from days to years, before they get their day in court.

“Sadly, unnecessary pretrial detention disrupts the work, education and family life of the detained, causing irreparable harm. And, the overuse of jail threatens public safety. We now know that even short periods of pretrial detention increase an individual’s likelihood to commit crime after their case is resolved.

“We are glad to see the DOJ shedding light on this nationwide problem. The decision to arrest or detain should not be based on a person’s skin color or how much money they have.” (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

Today, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Varden v. City of Clanton, to assist the court in evaluating the constitutionality of fixed-money bail practices. In her complaint, Varden alleges that she was required to pay a cash “bond” in a fixed dollar amount for each misdemeanor charge she faced or else she would remain incarcerated.

Said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of Pretrial Justice Institute:

"Far too often, an individual’s inability to pay leads to their detention—violating their constitutional right to equal treatment under the law. Litigation, such as this case brought in Alabama, is important to curbing over-incarceration in America. (more…)

PRESS RELEASE

Safety and Justice Challenge includes national competition to support innovation in local criminal justice systems

SJC_OrangeIcon_RGBChicago, IL – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced an initial five-year, $75 million investment that seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Safety and Justice Challenge will support cities and counties across the country seeking to create fairer, more effective local justice systems that improve public safety, save taxpayer money, and lead to better social outcomes.  Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to building and running them. (more…)