Across the state of Texas, there are many families who have had to scrape together enough money to get a relative out on bail. This is often difficult, and some families are unable to afford the amount set by the court, leaving their family member to stay in jail until their trial or a time when they can get the money. Two Senators are trying to change this system.
According to their New York Times opinion piece, Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul are co-sponsoring the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act to prevent people from being jailed while awaiting their trial solely for being unable to pay their bail. Minor crimes can carry a high price tag, such as $20,000 for the theft of just over $100 worth of clothes, and it is these cases that keep 450,000 Americans in jail waiting for their day in court because they cannot afford to pay. Detaining all of these people costs the taxpayer $14 billion each year. And it can cost the people being held in jail the custody of their children, their jobs, and their homes.
As the USA Today reports, if passed into law, grants would be given to localities interested in moving away from a financial bail, which does little to improve court appearance rates. In fact, a study in California showed that the higher the amount of bail was set, the less likely defendants were to appear in court. The senators want 85 percent of those awaiting trial to be released, and a hearing determining risk factors to be held for those detained.