Bond, also known as bail, is money charged by the state to release a person charged with a crime from custody while their case proceeds. For example, in Illinois people charged with crimes are required to pay 10% of the bond amount set by a judge as a “deposit.” For example, if you are given a $1,000 bond, you have to pay $100 cash in order to be released from police or county custody.
Bond is essentially unfair and unjust. Black people are twice as likely to be held pre-trial as white people and in 2015 the median bail set nationwide was $10,000, while the median pre-incarceration annual income of people incarcerated was $15,000. High bonds are justified by the idea that they keep us safe, but setting monetary bond undermines this very idea--someone who is not a threat to others should be released regardless of their access to money; likewise, someone who is truly a threat should not be released simply because they can pay bond. Our current system makes wealth, not safety, the primary determinant of whether someone is released while awaiting trial.
There is also no proven correlation between payment of bond and someone returning to court. Under Washington D.C.’s much-lauded Pretrial Services Agency, 85% of all defendants are released, no money bond is used, and 88% of all released defendants remain arrest-free and attend all court dates. In New York, 96% of the Bronx Freedom Fund’s clients attended every one of their court dates–a rate higher than that of people who paid their own bond!
Why is making bond so important?
The simple inability to pay bond often has severe negative consequences on the very things that help someone charged with a crime succeed: employment, stable housing, and strong family and community connections. Pre-trial detention can cause loss of housing and/or jobs, separation of families, and lost custody of children. It also results in higher rates of conviction, as people are forced to plead guilty in order to go home rather than fight their charges. With the stakes so high, BBO hopes to alleviate the harm for as many people as possible because people need care not cages.