In Champaign County, as across the United States, fewer than 40% of the people in jail are serving a sentence for a crime. More than 60% are in jail awaiting trial, and often are there only because they can’t afford to post the bail that the judge has set. The consequences of being in jail can include losing a job, losing a place to stay, and negative effects on the whole family. And those who spend this pretrial period in jail are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison and to receive longer sentences than those who are able to post bail.
BPNJ believes that people shouldn’t be penalized for being poor, and that Champaign County should change its procedures. For the many cases where releasing a person would not result in a risk to public safety or risk of them failing to show up for court appearances, that person should not be kept in jail. A number of jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, use a reliable risk assessment procedure and release up to 80% of people arrested pending trial, and provide appropriate supervision and monitoring when needed. In the District of Columbia no one has to post monetary bail to be released, and 88% of those released appear for their court dates; similarly 88% do not commit crimes during the pretrial period (this “community safety rate” is similar to the rate for people who posted a financial bond in locations that do use money bail).
More information on this is available at http://www.pretrial.org/the-problem/