Our Voices

Bail Reform, Which Could Save Millions of Unconvicted People from Jail, Explained

As Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights prepares to lead the largest mass bailout in history aimed at freeing more than 100 women and teenagers from New York’s notorious Rikers Island jails, Vox took a moment to explain the history of cash bail in our country and how it works.

As the reporter notes, while there are many serious problems within the criminal legal system, money bails stands out as particularly egregious: One in five people behind bars in this country is unconvicted, and many are there because they cannot pay bail of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

In 1964, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy said to Congress, “The rich man and the poor man do not receive equal justice in our courts. And in no area is this more evident than in the matter of bail. … This is a cause in which there is great work to be done.”

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