On Thursday, January 20, 2022, at 11 am ET, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will release its report, The Civil Rights Implications of Cash Bail. The report examines current approaches to reform in the pre-trial and bail system within the American criminal justice system.
The presumption of innocence forms the bedrock of the criminal justice system, with liberty being the rule and pre-trial detention “the carefully limited exception.”1 Despite this, pre-trial detention has become the norm. Between 1970 and 2015, there was a 433 percent increase in the number of individuals detained pre-trial; approximately half a million unconvicted people are currently being held in jails across the United States awaiting trial. Within the population held prior to trial, there are both racial and socioeconomic disparities: data indicate that Black and Latinx individuals, compared with other demographic groups, have higher rates of pre-trial detention and are more likely to have financial conditions of release imposed. Additionally, 60 percent of individuals who cannot afford to post bail fall within the poorest third of society.
The Commission held a public virtual briefing on this subject on February 26, 2021, to collect information from subject matter experts such as government officials, academics, law enforcement professionals, advocates, and impacted persons.
1 United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 755 (1987).