WHY BAIL REFORM?
The Problem: Bail isn’t working. Bail is supposed to accomplish one purpose–to make sure that people charged with crimes return to court to face justice. But that’s not the reality. The truth is that bail creates two systems of criminal justice in Washington: one for people who can afford bail, and one for people who can’t.
Unable to make as little as $100 bail, poor people accused of crimes in Washington State face a stark choice: stay in jail and fight the case, or plead guilty and go home. This creates a situation in which innocent people plead guilty to get out of jail because they can’t afford to pay the bail.
Bail is a primary driver of mass incarceration, wastes public funds, and intensifies the racial and economic inequalities existing in our communities.
Even if pleading guilty gets someone out of jail, serious damage has been done. Pleading guilty gives people a criminal record, which seriously hinders job prospects, the ability to get a loan, and access to housing. Others face the loss of custody of their children, crushing legal debt, or even deportation.
When people are charged with misdemeanor crimes and can’t get out on bail, they are stuck in a cycle. By allowing people to defend themselves from a position of freedom, it increases their chances of keeping their job, housing, and children.