Many people sit in our jail simply because they are too poor to pay a small bond. Some will never be charged with a crime, some charged will not be convicted, and of those convicted, many will not be sentenced to incarceration. OPPRC is advocating for an ordinance that would modify the city’s bail practices so that people no longer sit in jail awaiting trial for low-level, non-violent municipal charges because they are too poor to pay their bond or hire a bail bondsman. Under the ordinance, all persons charged with non-violent municipal offenses would be released on their own recognizance (ROR) or on an unsecured bond. Those that are arrested for crimes of violence are required to have a hearing on their release within 24 hours. At that hearing, non-financial release conditions (such as a restraining order or assessment by a substance abuse treatment facility) may be imposed. The ordinance ensures that nobody is held in jail pre-trial for municipal offenses solely because they do not have enough money to bond out.
Why is the ordinance important?
Currently, very few defendants are released on their own recognizance (ROR) or an unsecured bond. As a result, they spend time in jail simply because they are poor or working class. This has serious negative effects on people’s lives.
- People held in pretrial detention immediately lose their freedom, and often their jobs, their homes, their families, their health, and community ties. In this way, a relatively minor arrest can destabilize an entire family, placing children in foster care, leaving an entire family homeless or rendering a previously stable person homeless and unemployed.
- Numerous studies have found that African American defendants receive substantially higher bonds—often 35% or more—than white defendants with similar situations. African American and Latino defendants are 2 times more likely than white defendants to be held on bail amounts they could not afford.
- Women are disproportionately affected by court-related costs. According to a 2014 report on the costs of incarceration by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, 83% of the family members who were primarily responsible for court-related costs were women.
For more information, please see this one-page fact sheet, a longer fact sheet, and a visual illustrating how municipal pre-trial detention currently works and how it would work if the ordinance were passed.