Here’s the harsh reality: the cash bail system hinges on the idea that those who can pay for their release from jail will do so and then return for their court date. But studies have shown this isn’t always the case. In fact, people who cannot post bail are more likely to be convicted, even if they’re ultimately found innocent. 

The team at Connecticut Bail Bonds Group believes in second chances. Your ability to pay should not determine whether or not you stay in jail. That’s why the firm is committed to bail reform. The current system is unfair and unjust, especially to low-income defendants who can’t afford to post bail- no question about this. Here’s a quick walkthrough of the bail system, its impact, and the gains bail reform can help us make.

The Impact of Not Posting Bail

What happens when you fail to post bail or cannot raise the necessary funds? You will most likely have to stay in jail until your court date. This can seriously impact your life and may push you to the brink. Some of the effects of staying behind bars pending arraignment include;

  • Job loss
  • Loss of your home – if you lived in a rented house, you could easily get evicted.
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Family problems 
  • Crowded jails

Let’s say you’re imprisoned for a drug-related offense. Would you be able to join a treatment program after arrest or before your case goes to court? No. You would have to wait until you’re sentenced; by then, it may be too late. In short, you’ll have your work cut out if you’re to stand any chance of avoiding a conviction. 

Studies also show that individuals sent to jail before conviction are likely to commit suicide. Does the criminal system appear to do its role of protecting the innocent? Certainly not. 

What’s more, if you end up in jail before completing your case, you’re more likely to consider a guilty plea – even if you’re innocent – in the hope of freedom. The conditions in jail are often deplorable, and defendants are eager to get out, even if it means pleading guilty to a crime they didn’t commit.

There’s More to Bail Reform Than Just Money

Let’s be sincere; what are the chances you would want to appear in court after being detained pending arraignment? Would you have a fair chance in court if you cannot secure your release? 

Sure, posting a bond means you can await trial while at home with your family and friends. But it also comes at a cost. Bail bondsmen typically charge a non-refundable fee for posting bonds on your behalf. Now, considering that most people who end up in jail are low-income earners, this can be a real hardship. If they can’t pay a bondsman, their goose is cooked – jail time is almost a certainty. 

That said, reform isn’t only about making the system fair for people who can’t afford bail. It’s also about changing the way we think about pretrial detention.

Pretrial detention should be used sparingly and only when there is a risk that the defendant will not return to court or pose a danger to the community. But all too often, people are kept in jail simply because they can’t afford to post bail. This is unfair and counterproductive.

The Strides We’ve Made

Connecticut’s Public Act 17-145 went into effect in 2018 and helps address some of the problems with the cash bail system. The act requires Connecticut’s courts to release certain defendants on non-surety bonds- or personal recognizance –  a written promise to show up in court for the mention of your case or trial.

As such, defendants won’t have to post bail as long as they comply with certain conditions set by the court. Similarly, the Connecticut Bail Commission is working to develop pretrial risk assessment tools to help judges decide who should be released on bail and who should remain in jail. 

What’s Next for Connecticut Bail Reform?

Connecticut Bail Bonds Group is committed to working with legislators to bring about meaningful change to the bail system. And while we’ve made significant steps forward in the bail reform movement, we must continue to work together to ensure everyone has a fair chance at pretrial release, regardless of their economic status.

Bail reform is a step in the right direction. With the right measures in place, we can ensure everyone – regardless of their income or ability to pay – is treated fairly by the criminal justice system. What’s more, bail reform can help ease overcrowding in our jails and reduce the number of incarcerated people before their trials. To this end, we need to continue making progress on bail reform; regression would be a costly option.

By Manali