Without question, one of the single most controversial aspects of our nation’s criminal justice system is its reliance on wealth-based pretrial detention, meaning a system whereby prosperous defendants are readily able to post bail while their indigent counterparts must remain behind bars for weeks, months or even years while awaiting trial.
While some might be tempted to dismiss the significance of this issue, consider studies have repeatedly shown how those lacking the funds to secure their release and left to languish behind bars prior to securing a plea bargain, dismissal or their day in court are far more likely to lose their employment, homes and custody of their children.
As unfortunate as this is, consider also that studies have repeatedly shown that those kept in jail for an inordinate amount of time are actually more likely to re-offend upon release. and that the housing of non-violent offenders costs taxpayers as much as $100-plus per day per inmate.
To put this final point in perspective, consider statistics show close to half a million people are currently in jails across the nation due to the inability to post bail. Closer to home, a 2016 report by The Chicago Tribune determined that there were at least 300 prisoners in the Cook County Jail who were only there because they couldn’t afford to post the mere $100 needed for bail.
This is by no means a new phenomenon. Indeed, criminal justice advocates have been decrying wealth-based pretrial detention for decades.
Indeed, consider the words of President Lyndon B. Johnson: “[An indigent, nonviolent offender] does not stay in jail because he is any more likely to flee before trial. He stays in jail for one reason only — he stays in jail because he is poor.”
As shocking as all this is, the good news is that we are perhaps on the precipice of major changes here in the Chicagoland area owing to the recent order of the chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. We’ll examine this more in our next post.
In the meantime, if you are under investigation or have been charged with a major state felony, consider speaking with an experienced legal representative able to pursue solutions and protect your future.