Cash bail is unfair and violates due process


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By Sonali Kolhatkar, AFRO

Sonali Kolhatkar
Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. This week, she discusses America’s cash bail system. (Courtesy photo)

Should poor people await trial behind bars while the rich go free? In the latest election year culture war, some Republicans say “yes.”

Many Americans haven’t heard of cash bail. But the idea is central to an election year battle over racism, policing and mass incarceration.

When arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, everyone in the United States has the right to due process and to defend themselves in court. But in a cash bail system, when judges set bail amounts, those who cannot pay the full amount remain jailed indefinitely — a clear violation of their due process rights — while the rich can pay their way out of jail.

A 2022 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights examined the impact of cash bail and found that between 1970 and 2015, the number of people jailed before trial increased by a whopping 433 percent.

There are currently about half a million such people stuck in jails across the nation who haven’t been tried or convicted of any crimes. The report also found “stark disparities with regards to race,” with Black and brown men most often subject to higher bail amounts.

Read about how some areas are doing away with bail.

As a senator, Kamala Harris worked to abolish bail.

More stories like this.

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