Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] issued a report [text] on Tuesday saying California’s bail system pressures the poor into pleading guilty in order to be released from jail. The group said tens of thousands of Californians have been held for days to months without a conviction [press release]. It also said California’s median bail rates are five times that of the rest of the country and many incur debt in order to pay the bondman’s fee. HRW called on California to change its pretrial detention system to one that only impose bail on those who pose a serious threat to society. The system should favor “release and assesses the risk of danger in an individualized, contextual way.”
The issue of finances as a factor for revocation or imprisonment is a contested issue. Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled [JURSIT report] that a parolee’s ability to pay court costs should be considered. The Maryland Court of Appeals adopted a rule [JURIST report] in February ending the practice of holding criminal defendants in jail before trial when they cannot afford bail. Last June A lawsuit accused [JURIST report] a Louisiana judge of running a modern-day debtors’ prison for sentencing people to jail when they could not afford fees. Last March The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reached a settlement [JURIST report] with the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, in a lawsuit alleging that the detention of defendants unable to pay fines for misdemeanor charges exhibited deliberate indifference to their constitutional rights. Also last March The US Department of Justice (DOJ) urged [JURIST report] state court systems to stop using procedural routines and hefty fines to profit off poor defendants.