How Fines and Fees Criminalize Poverty

Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines — like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine — so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. … [Read more...]

Don’t Let Judges Hijack California Bail Reform

Californians who want to bring fairness to the criminal system recognize that there is no justice without meaningful bail reform. Wealthy people buy their liberty and fight their cases from home without regard for public safety. Poor people – the vast majority of criminal defendants – languish in jail even for minor charges. They lose jobs and their families go into debt paying non-refundable bail bonds. Those who can’t pay bail face a heartbreaking choice – assert their innocence and stay in … [Read more...]

Can Alternatives to Money Bail Work?

A New York City experiment suggests that bail methods which do not require paying large sums of money are a viable alternative to a system that is often skewed against the poor. A report released Friday by the Vera Institute of Justice found that “partially secured and unsecured” bonds could be as effective in guaranteeing a person’s appearance at trial as traditional cash bail requirements that place an onerous burden on most defendants’ resources─often ensuring that low-income individuals … [Read more...]

Inside the Movement to Free People Who Are Only in Jail Because They Can’t Afford Bail

Eliminating cash bail has become a focal point in the fight to transform the criminal justice system. Inside the wins and challenges of a growing movement that raises money to free people of color who are in jail simply because they can't afford to post bail.   bony* had been in an Atlanta jail for two weeks when one May evening, just before Mother’s Day, she got an unexpected visit from an attorney with good news: Someone had found her name through an open records request and wanted to pay the … [Read more...]

Fixing California’s Bail System

This group is putting women at the center of the battle to fix California's bail system As a public defender in New York City, Gina Clayton realized the cash bail system used in most state courts across the country was placing a heavy burden on women. The grandmothers and mothers who visited her office bailed relatives out so often that they knew several bond agents by name. Often the women navigated complicated contracts and paid high fees alone, she said. Many ended up swimming in debt. … [Read more...]

Targeting the Poor: Asset Forfeiture, Bail Practices, and Debt Peonage

What: ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter Forum Where: Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, 301 N. Orange Grove Bvld., Pasadena When: Tuesday, May 10th, 6:30 to 9 p.m. RSVP Here Jess Farris, Policy and Advocacy Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, with experience working to prevent and correct wrongful convictions. Michael Kaufman, Immigrant Rights Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, leading a class action lawsuit against the federal government about its … [Read more...]

Freedom for Sale in California – If You Can Afford It

On any given day, two-thirds of the people sitting in California jails haven't been convicted of anything. These 42,000 people are simply awaiting their day in court, many of them incarcerated for no reason other than being too poor to post bail. That fundamental unfairness is at the center of a federal case getting underway Tuesday in San Francisco. The class action suit asserts that California's bail system allows rich people to buy their freedom while awaiting trial, but assumes poor … [Read more...]

ACLU “Alternatives to Incarceration” Forum: November 10th

Toward Saner Approaches That Treat Communities More Humanely While Saving Taxpayers Money What: ACLU SoCal Pasadena-Foothills Chapter Public Forum When: Tuesday, November 10th, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Where: Neighborhood Church, 301 No. Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena RSVP HERE he decades-long war on drugs and war on crime have produced baleful results. In recent years, California’s prison population exploded to over double the 80,000 its prisons are designed to hold, with prisoners crammed … [Read more...]

Why the Police Want Prison Reform

“We need less incarceration, not more, to keep all Americans safe.” Criminal justice reform groups have been saying this for years. This time the source is unexpected: More than 130 of the nation’s top law-enforcement officials, including big-city police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and attorneys general, have joined the call to end to the harsh, counterproductive practices and policies that have driven America’s devastating prison boom, destroyed communities and written off an entire … [Read more...]