Jul 13, 2022 - News

Modeling cash bail reforms

Illustration of money rolled up and locked with a chain and padlock.  
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Detroit's 36th District Court agreed on a more equitable cash bail system yesterday, which leaders say could become a national model.

Driving the news: The agreement is part of the settlement in a 2019 federal lawsuit filed against Detroit's largest court.

  • Plaintiffs argued the court violated constitutional rights of people presumed innocent but are confined to jail because they can't afford to pay bail following their arrest.

Why it matters: The size of a person's bank account shouldn't determine their freedom, justice groups supporting the plaintiffs said in statements yesterday.

  • "Bail was originally intended to ensure a person returns to court to face charges against them," said the ACLU of Michigan's Dan Korobkin. "But instead, the money bail system has morphed into mass incarceration of the poor."

What's next: The court will now release defendants without cash bail on a personal recognizance bond unless there is evidence of being a flight risk or danger to the public.

  • In those cases, the court will consider noncash conditions, such as protective orders or reporting to probation.

What they're saying: "Other African American cities will be able to point to what one of the largest district courts in the country is doing to address this issue," Detroit's Chief Judge William McConico said in a statement.

Zoom out: Cash bail reform comes as many states consider rolling back bail reform efforts in response to political rhetoric suggesting they lead to increases in crime, the AP reports.

  • Washtenaw County became the first county in Michigan to end cash bail after progressive prosecutor Eli Savit took office last year.
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