Locked Up: How The $2 Billion “Cash Bail” System Targets Black Non-Violent Offenders

By Lyric Prince

  • Black people are far more likely to be charged for non violent crimes, which is the source for most bail revenue
  • The Bail Bond industry makes $1.4B – $2.4B in profit every year

Recent legislation has eased bail conditions for New York State residents, with mixed reviews. Despite lacking evidence that shows the effectiveness of bail, pro-bail proponents insist on a system that traps and enriches itself disproportionately of Black people. Combined with the effects of policies like stop and frisk, the real discriminatory purpose of bail becomes clear, it’s an assault on Black wealth.

Why This Matters: In a system that operates under “innocent until proven guilty,” Black people are far more likely to be charged for a non violent crime, which makes up the majority of any court’s docket, and is the source for most bail revenue. Defendants who can’t meet cash bail can negotiate their freedom through bail agents, who typically charge premiums of 10%, that is, $10,000 for a $100,000 bail. The median bail bond amount represents eight months of income for the typical detained defendant.

According to The Marshall Project , “reformers…argue that the traditional bail system forces poor defendants to choose between paying fees they can’t afford and sitting in jail until they go to trial.” While crime rates have fallen since the early 90’s, the number of people accused during that same timeframe has gone up by 15%.  

Bail bond companies and corporate insurance agencies are businesses and are not a formal part of the legal system. As a result, their guiding motive to make a profit often runs counter to the pursuit of justice, according to the ACLU. The top nine bail insurance companies including Tokio Marine and Fairfax Financial back a majority of the $14 billion in bail bonds each year, resulting in a profit of anywhere from $1.4 billion to 2.4 billion dollars.

Situational Awareness: While New York’s reforms are likely to stand, other parts of the country may experience greater pushback due to conservative “tough on crime” approach and fears from recent acts of mass violence. However, including those accused of non-violent offenses, which disproportionately targets Black citizens, will not curb those who are known to commit violent offenses. As for now, the business of issuing bail bonds for profit is under attack, and ending the cash bail system is merely the first step in reforming the pretrial detention system.

CBx Vibe:Locked Up” Akon

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