Cash bail is a monetary deposit required by the court to secure the temporary release of someone who is arrested and charged with a criminal offense. It is meant to guarantee the appearance of the defendant at all future court proceedings. However, the use of cash bail has become a way to discriminate against the poor because people without means cannot afford to pay for their freedom, or alternatively, they must take out loans from bail companies that charge excessive fees.
More than 60% of people locked up in America’s jails are innocent (they have not yet been to trial and have not been convicted of anything) and as many as 9 in 10 of those people are stuck in jail because they can’t afford bail. Black people, Latinxs, and Native Americans are twice as likely as white people to be stuck in jail because they can’t afford bail. Many people who find themselves in this situation were arrested for nonviolent, low-level offenses and are considered low-risk defendants (in that the chances of them not showing up in court are low). But studies show that the longer people are held in jail pretrial, the more likely they are to commit crimes upon release, and the less likely they are to show up for future court appearances.