No Cash Bail Bonds are Nothing to Fear



Harris County Jail
Harris County Jail photo by Michael Stravato

New System in Harris County is a Major Success

In December of last year, we wrote an article about the Harris County bail bond system and the abuses the magistrates were engaging in. The assigning of a cash bail was being abused for petty, vindictive reasons, just because they could. Civil rights attorneys stepped in and filed a lawsuit. In 2017 a federal judge ruled against Harris County. Under orders to reform, they began a transition to no cash bail bonds for non-violent, low-level misdemeanors. But because so many people were terrified that this would lead to criminals running rampant in the streets, a reports was ordered to be generated on the effects of the new system. Harris County completed their transition in 2019. The report came out and it shows that the new system is a major success. The release of those low-level offenders did NOT cause an increase in people reoffending.

Fear Rooted in Bigotry and Racism

As everyone can see from current events and the amount of Black people abused and killed by police, we still have a huge problem with bigotry and racism in this country. Politicians have played to people’s fears to get elected for a long time. Once in office, they follow through for various reasons; campaign promise, money, their own racism and bigotry. Regardles which reason (or all of them) they have weighted the system against people of color and the poor, not only in areas policed but also in how the judicial system handles their cases.

The weighted system is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you put most of your officers in areas that have mostly people of color, then you will have mostly people of color getting arrested. If you have few officers in White areas, then you will have few White people getting arrested.  This is just logic, common sense. But when racist people keep seeing people of color getting arrested, it validates their beliefs that crimes are being instigated by only that segment of society.

It’s Not Just Politicians Pushing the Narrative

But we can’t blame this just on politicians. The private prison industry makes a ton of money off of people being incarcerated. Fewer incarcerated people means less profits for them. It is in their best interest to keep their jails full regardless of what it does to families and our society. It’s all about the money and to keep that money flowing, they spend a lot on lobbyists and in campaign contributions to make politicians indebted to them. Those politicians will then keep the flow of bodies coming. And private prisons done a fantastic job. The United States has approximately 4.4% of the world’s population but 22% of all incarcerated people. 

It’s not just the private prison system, either. Our government backed prison industry benefits tremendously off of the work that inmates do and in return, gives them pennies on the hour as compensation. Everything from firefighting to making hand sanitizer. You name it, and if there’s a way to profit off of this slave labor, it’s being done. Then there are the “rehabs” that take people and use them as slave labor, collecting the person’s pay for themselves. The people going there have no choice since a judge orders it. It’s just a different kind of auction block.

All these places need bodies to exploit, which has allowed this corrupt system to continue. While no cash bonds won’t effect prisons and stop any of those abuses, it can help to stop private jails from making money off of housing people and it can stop the predatory rehabs from exploiting inmates. It’s a small step. So much more still needs to be done.

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