The February DCQC meeting included a presentation on Bail Reform. It is a problem that needs resolution.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) fully supports bail reform. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund advocates for the abolition of money bail, noting that on any given day in the United States, more than 450,000 individuals—presumed innocent and not convicted of a crime—are held in local jails awaiting trial. Most are there simply because they cannot afford bail. With an annual price tag of more than $15 billion, taxpayers are shouldering a high price for a failed system.
The NAACP National Convention adopted in 2017 and approved again in 2019 and 2022 a resolution to support bail reform in the United States and has reaffirmed that resolution opposing money bail.3 The NAACP National Convention July 2022 reaffirmed that the NAACP seeks to ensure that no person accused of a crime is held in custody because they do not have access to capital and includes eliminating fees for monitoring which is required as a condition of release.
The NAACP Arizona State Conference also has taken the position that there is an urgent need for bail reform and, beginning in 2021, began advocating for an amendment to the state constitution to eliminate money bail.
NAACP branches are working nationwide to impact bail reform in meaningful ways. The Tucson Branch prepared a Report and Recommendations on Cash Bail documents in 2021 which the NAACP State Conference supported. This document is the updated version of that report and explains why there is a need for a specific proposal for legislation to reform the cash bail system. The Presenting Problem: Inappropriate Pretrial Detention
At the present time, more than 450,000 people are held in pretrial detention. They constitute 65% of the jail population. Scott-Hayward and Fradella found that “between 2000 and 2015 the growth in the number of jail inmates detained pretrial—meaning before being convicted of the offenses for which they were charged—accounted for 95 percent of the growth in the overall jail population.
Nine out of ten defendants in jail awaiting trial are there because they either cannot or choose not to meet the release conditions set in their cases. Most likely, they cannot afford to pay the bail set.
Jail is a punitive and traumatic experience. Care is limited for those with mental illness, and the suicide rate is three times that of prisons. In addition, these individuals are re-arrested disproportionately due to their inability to make it to scheduled court hearings, caused by these mental and behavioral health issues and untreated illnesses motivating their criminal activity.
It is difficult for jailers to spend the necessary time with their attorneys. As a result, they are more likely accept plea deals and receive more severe plea deals, more likely to be convicted of a more serious charge, more likely to be sentenced, and, in the case of misdemeanors, for twice as long. Detaining low- and moderate-risk defendants, even just for a few days, is strongly correlated with higher rates of new criminal activity both during the pretrial period and years after case disposition; as length of pretrial detention increases up to 30 days, recidivism rates for low- and moderate-risk defendants also increases significantly. Their lives are negatively affected, including drops in employment/income, loss of assistance benefits (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid), and having their children placed in foster care.13 Decisions are racially biased, with Black and Latinx individuals more likely to be detained than whites and men more likely to be incarcerated than women. For the public, there are financial costs of about $14 billion per year, as well as safety costs because detention is associated with an increase of 30% in new felony and 20% in new misdemeanor charges.” In Pima County, the adopted jail budget for the current year is over $47 million.B