WORLD FUTURE FUND
KAMALA HARRIS'S BAIL REFORM BILL
A VITAL PLAN FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
On July 20th, 2017, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and co-sponsor Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bipartisan bail reform bill: The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017.
The purpose of the bill is to encourage states to reform or replace the practice of money bail, the requirement that individuals awaiting trial remain in jail unless they pay for their release.
The bill will authorize a $10 million grant over a three-year period to incentivize and encourage states to reform or replace the practice of money bail. This will not change the state laws, but encourage states to reform their currently existing laws.
The horror of the current state laws is that someone who is innocent can still have to be stuck in jail to await trial for months, because they don't have the funds to bail themselves out.
Across the country, state and local governments continue to have ineffective money bail systems that force individuals to pay amounts that are often set arbitrarily, without consideration for their ability to pay, or an accurate assessment of the person’s danger to the public, or risk of not showing up to trial. It is a system that incarcerates Americans on the basis of wealth. That is not justice.
“Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally,” said Senator Harris. “Yet more than 450,000 Americans sit in jail today awaiting trial and many of them cannot afford “money bail.” In our country, whether you stay in jail or not is wholly determined by whether you’re wealthy or not – and that’s wrong. We must come together to reform a bail system that is discriminatory, wasteful, and fails to keep our communities safe.”
“Americans should be able to expect fair and equal treatment under the law regardless of how much money is in their pockets or how many connections they have,” said Senator Paul. “By giving states greater freedom to undertake reforms specific to their needs, our legislation will help strengthen protections for minority and low-income defendants, reduce waste, and move our bail system toward more effective methods, such as individualized, risk-based assessments.”
Demands for excessive money bail also disproportionately affect communities of color. African-American and Hispanic defendants are more likely to be detained pretrial than white defendants and less likely to be able to post money so they can be released.
What will the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017 Do?
What are the goals of this bill? The bill cannot change state laws, but here are the guidelines for what it proposes.
Authorize a $10 million grant over a three-year period to incentivize and encourage states to reform or replace the practice of money bail.
Replace the money bail system with individualized, pretrial assessments with risk-based decision-making. The risk assessments must be regularly validated on a local population, and include objective, research-based, validated assessment tools that do not result in unwarranted disparities on the basis of any classification protected under Federal nondiscrimination laws or the nondiscrimination laws of the applicable State.
Provide for a presumption of release, unless the judicial officer determines that such release would not result in the appearance of the person at trial or would endanger the safety of others in the community.
Require that if pretrial release requires imposing conditions, it should be based on the least restrictive, non-financial conditions that a judicial officer determines is necessary.
Require that supervision of bail conditions be based on evidence-based practices.
The appointment of counsel at the earliest possible stage of pretrial detention.
Institute a system of data collection and reporting to show effectiveness of system improvements.
Authorize an additional $5 million over three years to the Bureau of Justice Statistics to implement a National Pretrial Reporting Program, which provides for data collection on the processing of defendants in State and municipal courts.
Require an annual report to the Department of Justice that provides for transparency and accountability for these grant programs.
RELATED NEWS STORIES
Why are Rand Paul and Kamala Harris teaming up on a bill? (The Washington Post, 7-25-17)
Kamala Harris and Rand Paul: To Shrink Jails, Let’s Reform Bail (New York Times, 7-20-17)
Kamala Harris, Rand Paul back fixes to bail process (CNN, 7-20-17)
Rand Paul and Kamala Harris Team Up to Reform Bail Practices (NBC News, 9-10-17)