“What [cash bail] does is create a system where often the people with the least ability to pay, charged with the most minor offenses, are stuck in jail.”
– Serena Sebring with Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
The writer talks about the nearly empty Durham County courtroom – not unusual for first appearances, where defendants hear from the judge about the charges against them – but just because the courtroom isn’t packed doesn’t mean there’s no drama.
There’s plenty of drama for the people being charged.
Here’s why: The first appearance is the first taste of the price of justice. Either come up with the money to make bail, or sit in jail until plea or trial, even though it’s innocent until proven guilty in this country.
Money trumps the Constitution, apparently, but that’s something we’ve all known for decades.
In many cases it’s just a few hundred dollars – although not “just a few hundred” to those who are having trouble coming up with it.
‘Stop keeping people in cages’
Southerners on New Ground, or SONG, wants the criminal justice system in Durham County to “stop keeping people in cages because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.”
Here’s a link to SONG’s petition.
If successful, Durham County will follow other places that are working to change their money bail systems, ranging from Alaska to California to New York, as Sarah Willets reports for IndyWeek (“In Durham, Bail for the Rich, Jail for the Poor“).