From an editorial Thursday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Sens. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, and Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, are working together to address an important national problem: monetary bail that can keep defendants in jail because they’re too poor to pay.
The senators have jointly introduced, and are jointly promoting, a bill that would give grants to states to reform their bail systems.
“Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children – or their life,” the pair said in a New York Times op-ed.
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The bill would require grant recipients to try to move away from money-bail systems to “individualized, pretrial assessments” that estimate the likelihood that a defendant will flee or commit crimes while released. And these assessments would use “objective, research-based and locally validated” tools.
It may sometimes be necessary to ensure that the defendant does not flee before justice can be done, but innocent people deserve an individualized risk assessment if they are to be kept in jail for such a reason.
And such assessments are certainly to be preferred to monetary bail. It is unequal justice to hold people in jail when they would get out if they were better off.
It is heartening to see senators from the two major parties working together on a matter of justice.