Curbelo, Lieu Lead Bipartisan Effort to Curb Costly, Unfair Bail Systems

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Washington, D.C., October 11, 2017 | Joanna Rodriguez (202-225-2778) | comments

Today, Representatives Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) and Ted W. Lieu (CA-33) were joined by Representatives Mia Love (UT-4) and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) in introducing the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that incentivizes moving away from a money bail system. Under money bail systems, the decision to detain a person prior to their trial is based on their ability to pay bail instead of their flight risk or danger to society.

The Senate companion legislation, S.1593, was introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-California) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) earlier this year.  The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act encourages states to replace their existing bail systems with pretrial risk assessments — a more just system for evaluating the flight and safety risk of defendants facing trial. An individualized risk assessment considers factors such as a person’s past criminal history and the current charge. A handful of places throughout the United States, including Kentucky and the District of Columbia, have already implemented or are in the process of implementing such a system.

“Currently, bail systems in states across the country effectively discriminate against poorer defendants,” Curbelo said.  “Even the smallest financial penalty can be more than a family that is already living paycheck-to-paycheck is able to afford. Defendants who lack the means to pay are often left incarcerated while wealthier and sometimes more dangerous defendants wait for their day in court in the comforts of home. The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act would help modernize our system so that bail is set on flight and safety risk instead of financial means — better protecting the American public from more dangerous criminals and giving less fortunate offenders an equal opportunity to prepare for their day in court.”

“Everyone is entitled to due process under the Constitution,” said Lieu. The way that most states have their bail systems set up means the poorest defendants are punished before their trial, simply because they cannot afford bail. It also means that wealthy but potentially dangerous defendants can avoid pretrial custody. Locking up Americans before they have their day in court simply because they are poor is un-American. Moving to a system where bail decisions are instead based on flight and safety risk will not only restore justice to our criminal justice system, but it will also keep us safer and save taxpayer dollars. In Kentucky, which has used a risk assessment tool in recent years, nearly 90 percent of those released pretrial appeared in court. Pretrial systems based on risk cost on average $7 a day. In comparison, jail beds may cost more than $200 per day. I am pleased to introduce the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act with Congressman Curbelo today to start fixing our bail system. America should never be a nation where freedom is based on income.”

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