The U.S. spends $22 billion annually to keep people in jail. No one should be locked up simply because they can’t afford to pay bail.
Posted by Vera Institute of Justice on Thursday, June 6, 2019
The justice system has to make money some way, right?
In court, you are innocent until proven guilty. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean no jail time. For many at or below the poverty line, and for many people of color (usually in both categories), the courts are rigged so that bail is either just out of reach and/or absolutely needed for freedom. Without payment, you remain in lockup. If you can find payment from a bondsman, you’ll owe money on top of money to multiple parties. If not guilty, you don’t see a refund. If guilty, you pay more.
Then there’s the human cost to the family, housing, employment, and other things not easily quantifiable. In New Orleans, a city where public defenders lack resources to do their job, and in a state like Louisiana that leads in incarcerations, this matter of money injustice is most urgent.
Thankfully, the Vera Institute of Justice has some advice and learning guides. Already, our city has seen the near elimination of bail for municipal offenses and other steps towards a fully funded and self-sustaining justice system.
According to Vera’s Paid in Full Report, the city can save over $5 Million in taxpayer money, residents will save $9 Million spent on legal fees, and the day to day jail population will be reduced from 304 to 687 people. With just an annual investment of almost $3 Million, the city could replace its revenue from the unfair practices utilized across the board:
“The court must transition to a model of presumptive release or carefully limited detention—rather than a model based on payment—and eliminate conviction fees, prospectively and retroactively”
Visit Vera.org for more information on blueprints for fairer justice proceedings in New Orleans and how to advocate for these changes.
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews