Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has teamed up with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to introduce a bipartisan bill that seeks to remove monetary bail requirements for people arrested while awaiting court dates.
The goal is to remove what critics of the criminal justice system call an unfair disadvantage for poor people and people of color, who reportedly pay disproportionately higher amounts for bail.
“Nationally, African American men pay 35 percent higher money bail amounts than white men, and Hispanic men pay 19 percent higher money bail amounts than white men,” part of the Harris-Paul bill reads. The individuals who would be exempt from bail are described as “low-risk individuals” awaiting criminal trials.
The bill continues:
Money bail systems have resulted in disparate harms to poor people and communities of 12 color. Studies have shown that African American 13 and Hispanic defendants are more likely to be detained pretrial than white defendants and less likely to be able to post money bail so they can be released. Moreover, race and money bail amounts are significantly correlated.
The concern is that individuals earning lower wages are not able to pay bail, which could result in them losing their jobs, having their cars towed, and possibly losing their children.
Critics and opponents of the legislation include bail bonds companies and public safety organizations.
Harris, in a written statement announcing the bill, reportedly said, “In our country, whether you stay in jail or not is wholly determined by whether you’re wealthy or not — and that’s wrong. We must come together to reform a bail system that is discriminatory, wasteful, and fails to keep our communities safe.”
Americans deserve “fair and equal treatment under the law regardless of how much money is in their pockets or how many connections they have,” Paul said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to Bay Area public radio station KQED, Harris and Paul’s bill estimates that 450,000 people are incarcerated in the U.S. without having been convicted of a crime, and while awaiting trial.
The bill seeks to distribute $10 million between state and tribal court systems in order to replace the use of bail with “risk-based decision making that includes objective, research-based, and locally-validated assessment tools that do not result in unwarranted disparities.”
In April, Duane “Dog” Chapman, known for his show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” appeared in the Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing to testify against similar legislation.