Equal Justice Under Law

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Ending American Money Bail

 

No one should spend time in jail simply because he or she is poor, but every day about 450,000 Americans sit in jail for that very reason.

Despite the constitutional guarantee that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, our current money bail system forces arrestees to pay an arbitrary amount of bail money to secure release before trial. Those who can afford to purchase their liberty walk free, while those who can’t languish in jail pending trial. The result is discriminatory pretrial detention based on wealth-status, not any meaningful assessment of flight risk or danger to the community.

Equal Justice Under Law is dedicated to ending this discriminatory practice of jailing hundreds of Americans solely because of their poverty by filing class action lawsuits against money bail systems all across the country.


A Societal Problem

Wealth-based detention has disastrous consequences: overcrowding of local jails, lost jobs, lost housing, poor sanitation and medical care, broken families, and drained local budgets. In many cases, an arrestee may be held longer in jail while awaiting trial than any sentence she or he would likely receive if convicted, causing innocent people to plead guilty to offenses that they did not commit in order to shorten lengthy pretrial detention. Individuals who are detained are not able to assist their attorneys in the investigation of the charges against them, resulting in wrongful convictions and longer sentences.

As the U.S. Department of Justice said in an amicus brief  filed in our money bail case in Alabama, Varden v. City of Clanton:

 

It is the position of the United States that, as courts have long recognized, any bail or bond scheme that mandates payment of pre-fixed amounts for different offenses in order to gain pre-trial release, without any regard for indigence, not only violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but also constitutes bad public policy.


Solving the Problem

We are fighting hard to bring this discriminatory system to an end by bringing legal challenges all across the country, calling money bail unconstitutional because it creates two separate systems of justice, one for the rich and another for people who are poor. We have filed 12 challenges against money bail in 9 states. Our work is also inspiring potential policy changes at the federal and state levels. We have worked closely with Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), who in February 2016 introduced the No Money Bail Act, which would help end the money bail system across the nation. We are an endorser of the bill and continue to work closely as it progresses through the Congress.

As the first organization to file successful cases in multiple states, Equal Justice Under Law is widely seen as a leader on the issue.

 
 

 

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California - Buffin v. San Francisco

Date Filed: October 28, 2015


California - Welchen v. Sacramento

Date Filed: October 16, 2016


Alabama - Christy Dawn Varden v. Clanton

Date Filed: January 15, 2015


Missouri - Donya Pierce v. Velda City

Date Closed: June 3, 2015


Missouri - Kellen Powell v. St. Ann

Date Filed: May 27, 2015


Mississippi - Chevon Thompson v. Moss Point

Date Filed: June 12, 2016


Alabama - Anthony Cooper v. Dothan

Date Filed: June 2015


Louisiana - Rebecca M. Snow v. Ascension Parish

Date Filed: September 2015


Kansas - Lawrence J. Martinez v. Dodge City

Date Filed: October 2015

 
 

 

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