John Legend and Rashad Robinson: End money bail now
Dismantling the commercial bail industry is a steep hill to climb. Prosecutors, mayors, legislators and governors across the country are responding to the community-led movement for bail reform and reconsidering the role of money bail in our justice system. We must all add our voices to the call to #EndMoneyBail if we are going to finally put an end to the corrupt, destructive, and unnecessary industry that is commercial bail.
With only 5% of the world's population, the U.S. accounts for 25% of the world's incarceration rate.
Nearly half of those individuals are serving for non-violent offenses. Mandatory-sentencing laws leave people serving longer prison sentences for relatively minor crimes. No one should have to stay in jail because they lack the money to buy their freedom. Yet every night, according to the Justice Department's statistics, nearly 450,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime sit in jail, a large number trapped there simply because they don't have enough money to post bail.
Large prison populations have led to a business of caged people, profit-seeking private-prison companies, and political lobbying in favor of prison construction - which in turn demands humans to feed into the system. This sprawling prison system imposes staggering economic, social, political, and discriminatory costs to negatively ripple across the nation.
John Legend, as part of his listening and learning tour,
visited Folsom State Prison to meet with incarcerated individuals and staff and to learn about some of their re-entry programs.
Focusing on drug offenses and private prisons can distract us from larger problems prosecutors. Political in nature, district attorneys are rewarded for imprisoning people with almost unlimited power to do so. Our system has incentives for cruelty but none for mercy. Being 'tough on crime' is encouraged, while empathy is seen as a weakness.
American prosecutors win 99.5% of their cases, 97% without a trial, allowing prosecutors to determine people’s crime and punishment without ever setting foot in a courtroom - essentially creating a breeding ground to abuse power for personal profits. The system extorts evidence from defendants, in exchange for reduced sentences or immunity from prosecution and threatens them with prosecution if they decline to cooperate. All the rewards for prosecutors are for making more prisoners - how does that help anyone?
If power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
At Equal Justice Under Law we are fighting to right these wrongs and strategizing solutions to end pretrial money bail. We applaud our fellow champions John Legend and Rashad Robinson as they spearhead momentum around this devastating system.