How Cash Bail Robs People of Their Dignity and Resources
A NEW EDUCATIONAL VIDEO SHOWS IN LESS THAN 2 MINUTES HOW CASH BAIL PUNISHES THE POOR LONG BEFORE THEIR DAY IN COURT.
Baton Rouge, LA (April 15, 2021)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in partnership with the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition and the Fair Fight Initiative, has produced a new educational video capturing how cash bail punishes people in Baton Rouge long before they’re found guilty of a crime.
Of the more than 1,400 people incarcerated in the Baton Rouge jail, 80 percent have not been convicted. Many of these people—disproportionately from Black and Brown communities—have been denied their freedom and risk losing their jobs, homes, and even custody of their children while imprisoned pretrial, simply because they can’t afford to pay their bail.
The most commonly set bail in Baton Rouge is around $50,000, nearly double the per capita income in the parish, but even much smaller bonds can prove prohibitively expensive and unjustly criminalize poverty. Most Americans, in fact, wouldn’t have enough in savings to pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense in cash, and this wealth gap has only grown more pronounced during the pandemic.
So why should your bank account determine what type of ‘justice’ you receive?
“Cash bail has demonstrated for decades what systemic racism looks like,” said Monica Smith, policy attorney for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “From that very first encounter with the police to being caged pretrial for months to the judge’s final decision, at every touchpoint within the criminal legal system, communities of color face irreparable consequences. It’s time to stop this perpetual violence and harm.”
“In Baton Rouge and really across the country, the incarcerated aren’t the only ones paying the price,” said Reverend Alexis Anderson, member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition. “Low income families are targeted by the criminal system and then family assets are targeted through cash bail and excessive bond attachments. Unable to meet these financial obstacles, individuals stay incarcerated for excessive times, losing everything because they are poor. This system has disrupted communities, torn families apart, and robbed them of their hard-earned resources. We need to stop criminalizing quality of life issues, reduce DA time, fully fund our public defender system and abolish cash bail and unnecessary bond attachments if we’re ever to become a just society.”
“I have seen clients lose jobs, homes, cars, their children, and even their life because they were too poor to pay a cash bail,” said David Utter, executive director of the Fair Fight Initiative. “The conditions in the Baton Rouge jail should shame us all, and the notion of keeping people in there simply because they are too poor to pay a cash bail is unconscionable.”
Learn more about RFK Human Rights and its work to abolish cash bail at RFKHumanRights.org.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition (EBRPPRC) advances solutions and works collaboratively with criminal justice coalitions to reduce mass incarceration and to uphold the basic human rights of those incarcerated at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and their families through education, advocacy, transparency, and accountability.
The Fair Fight Initiative (FFI) is a 501(c)(3) organization that advocates for equal treatment under the law, confronts systemic injustice, and helps victims challenge abusers of power in court. FFI takes on important and influential cases to expose violations of freedom and equality—often cases that no other lawyer will take because they can’t afford to.
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing changemakers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.