Monday, January 16, 2017

'Money is coined liberty': Bail where economic populism meets the justice system

Recounting life in a czarist prison, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote that "money is coined liberty." He could have been referencing 21st century American bail systems - long ago abandoned at the federal level and nearly everywhere else on the planet - in which one defendant may remain in jail while an identically situated person goes free, based entirely on who has access to cash.

We're still waiting for soon-to-be-filed legislation aiming to reform Texas' bail system. Such legislation would implement recommendations from the Texas Judicial Council to move away from money bail toward the use of risk assessments (to a greater or lesser extent, as remains to be seen) in determining whether to incarcerate people pretrial. In the meantime, though, the topic of bail reform percolates continuously in other states and at the local level. Here are a few examples of which Grits readers should be aware:

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