Money bail is no more effective than other forms, yet our country’s reliance on money bail often places people behind bars who are presumed innocent and do not pose a risk of flight or to public safety. Such pretrial detention often leads to job loss, financial instability, family stress, and social stigma. Because the ability to make bail falls along socioeconomic lines, the system also disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Accordingly, the ABA believes that money bail should only be used when it the only means that will secure a person’s appearance in court.
The ABA similarly opposes incarceration and other forms of nonmonetary punishment for inability to pay and fines. Jeopardizing an individual’s ability to maintain employment is an unnecessary and self-defeating extreme when seeking restitution. Furthermore, these are policies that create significant hardship along socioeconomic lines including People of Color.
People of limited means also face threats of incarceration when they are not represented by counsel. The ABA believes that indigent defense systems should be resourced on par with the prosecution, and that the right to counsel should begin with bail determinations.