The Obama Administration has declared it unconstitutional to keep a person in jail because they are too poor to pay for bail, undermining the well-established concept of bail bonds.
On Friday, the Justice Department filed documents to the court of appeals which declared that jailing those who cannot afford bail before they are tried in court is a violation of the 14th Amendment.
This is a major step in correcting gross mass incarceration injustices as often, low-income minorities are kept in jail for months without a trial because they cannot afford bail – even as low as $1,000.
Said the Justice Department:
“Bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment” and “result in the unnecessary incarceration of numerous individuals who are presumed innocent.”
The practice of using bail bonds as a means of keeping individuals locked up is receiving heavy scrutiny all over the nation and California is even now facing a class-action suit which alleges that the state applied especially exorbitant bonds to criminals which then forced them to take out predatory loans from bail bondsmen.
This decision by the Justice Department is a valuable next step after the department removed funding for Private Prisons just last month. While we still have a long way to go in reforming our criminal justice system, it is encouraging to see our administration taking such proactive steps.