Taking aim at one of the most exploitative components of America’s broken criminal justice system, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would end the “destructive and unjust cash bail process” that keeps hundreds of thousands of people locked up at a given moment due to their inability to pay their way out of jail.
“Poverty is not a crime,” Sanders declared in a press release unveiling his legislation, which is formally titled the No Money Bail Act. “In the year 2018, in the United States, we should not continue having a ‘debtor prison’ system.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who has introduced a companion bill in the House, added in a statement on Wednesday that America’s “money bail system is irrational and dangerous. People who are not at high risk but are poor remain incarcerated, while people who may be dangerous are set free if they have the funds. It’s maddening to see that those with money can buy their freedom while poor defendants languish behind bars while awaiting trial.”
“It has always been clear that we have separate criminal justice systems in this country for the poor and for the rich.”
—No Money Bail Act, summary
“I’m grateful Sen. Sanders is introducing a bill that moves to end our justice system’s reliance on money bail,” Lieu added.
Citing the well-known fact that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, a summary (pdf) of Sanders’ new legislation argued that “what’s even worse is nearly a quarter of all people incarcerated on any given day in the
U.S. are ‘unconvicted’—meaning they are sitting in jail waiting for a trial, or plea bargain, or some sort of conclusion to their case.”
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