A new bi-partisan measure is being introduced by California Senator Kamala Harris and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to work towards eliminating the bail bond system across the country. As the USA Today reports, a study found that 62 percent of the people being held in California jails were there because they could not pay their bail, and they were being detained prior to their trials or while they awaited sentencing. In California, the median amount asked for bail is $50,000, which is five times as much as the average nationwide.
Detaining all of these people prior to their trials costs American taxpayers $38 million each day, and this does not actually help ensure that they show up for their court dates. Studies show that detaining a person longer than 24 hours makes them less likely to return to court. As the senators note in their New York Times op-ed, the bill they are proposing would allow jurisdictions to make their own reforms to the bail system while using analytics to ensure the risk assessments put in place are not discriminatory. The current financial bail system is more likely to result in black and Latino defendants being held before their trials because they cannot afford to pay bail, and the average amounts set for defendants of color is also considerably higher than the amounts set for white men.
Changing the pretrial system to determine which defendants need to be detained to a nonfinancial system could include reforms such as those being made in other states. Kentucky and New Jersey currently look at risk factors that look at whether or not a defendant is a threat to the community, such as a history of violent criminal behavior, or if a defendant is unlikely to return to court because of problems with substance abuse.