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“Innocent until proven guilty” is one of the unshakeable pillars of the American judicial system, right?
For this thought exercise, let’s suppose that it is.
If you’ve been arrested and are awaiting trial, though, you’re faced with a few options. One unappealing option is that you can pay an arbitrarily determined sum of money, get out of jail, and await trial while preparing yourself for what could be the legal battle for the rest of your life. The other, rather less appealing option is that the bail payment is too high for you or your family to pull together, so you have to remain in jail, waiting patiently in pretrial detention until the time of your hearing arrives. By then, you’ve missed possibly months of work, are behind on rent and other payments, and have had to rely on the generosity of family and friends (who may or may not be willing to support you) just to get you through that period.
What’s the lesson here? “Innocent until proven guilty” is not the same as “free to go.”
The Bail Project seeks to “disrupt the prison industry;” a third party capable of altering the course of someone’s life by providing the hundreds of dollars that can be needed for bail payments and alleviating some of the inherent bias in the cash bail system. In their own words, “The Bail Project, Inc. is an unprecedented effort to combat mass incarceration at the front end of the system. We pay bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence.” With humans’ futures hanging on the thread of a judge’s decision, it seems fair to give everyone eligible for bail and equal chance of getting the best shot.
You can donate to The Bail Project by visiting their website here.