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SPLC encourages Congress to support bill that seeks to replace money bail for minor offenses

The following statement in support of the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017 introduced this week by U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Rand Paul, is by Sam Brooke, deputy legal director for the SPLC:

“No one charged with a minor offense should be jailed before conviction simply because they are too poor to pay for their freedom. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our justice system allows through money bail. It is unjust and ineffective.

“The bill proposed in the Senate provides incentives for state and local governments to reform their bail practices in a way that will help ensure that our justice system is applied fairly to all – regardless of socioeconomic status.

“We encourage members of Congress to support this measure and to ensure that their respective states take advantage of these opportunities for reform.”

About the SPLC’s reform efforts:

Last year, the SPLC launched a campaign in Alabama to encourage municipal courts to reform their bail practices – an effort that has resulted in 75 cities changing their practices. This has caused a sharp reduction in unnecessary detentions. For example, in the city of Hoover, the jail population dropped by nearly 90 percent. A previous story about the reform effort can be viewed here.

The SPLC is also pursuing a federal class action lawsuit challenging the bail system in Randolph County, Alabama. Hours after the SPLC filed the case, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Randolph County sheriff after finding that it is unconstitutional to have a “pretrial detention scheme … in which indigent arrestees are jailed because of their inability to make bond, while well-to-do arrestees are able to quickly purchase their release.”

The SPLC is also challenging a New Orleans-based bail bonds company and its affiliates in federal court for extortion and violations under the Truth in Lending Act.