At the 2017 Annual Meeting in New York, the ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution on the use of bail. Resolution 112C urges jurisdictions to release defendants on their own recognizance unless a court determines “that release on cash bail or secured bond is necessary to assure the defendant’s appearance and no other conditions will suffice for that purpose” (emphasis added). It further urges that courts be prohibited from “imposing a financial condition of release that results in the pretrial detention of a defendant solely due to the defendant’s inability to pay.”
In the two years since the House of Delegates passed this resolution, bail reform has been a high priority for the ABA. From urging Congress to take legislative action to supporting bail reform lawsuits by filing amicus curiae briefs, the ABA has taken a leading role in efforts to ensure that no individual is detained pretrial due to inability to afford bail or bond.
Money bail systems historically result in the detention of indigent defendants simply because they cannot pay the bond or bail set, and not because they actually pose an increased risk of harm to the public. As the ABA recently observed in a letter to Congress, “[c]urrently more than 450,000 Americans are jailed while awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford money bail.” The use of money bail to detain the poor is unquestionably expensive for jurisdictions. The ABA reported to Congress that “State and local governments spend $14 billion a year to house this portion of the jail population alone.” Additionally, these defendants often lose their jobs during detention, jeopardizing the financial security of the families and potentially increasing dependence on social safety net programs.