A new documentary from the SundanceNOW Doc Club, called Limbo features brief interviews with three men sitting in jail awaiting trial and one corrections officer.
All of them believe that the bail system is unfair, and they tell you why.
“In today’s overcrowded penal system, 60 percent of America’s incarcerated citizens are being held in pre-trial detention, or ‘limbo.’ This is either because they’ve been denied bail or because they’re among the one in 10 defendants who are unable to post bail at the time of their arraignment. The vast majority fall into the latter category,” Vox reports.
In fact, many of these folks in limbo have bail set at a “low” level, but one that is impossible for them to pay. Many of them don’t qualify for help from bail bondsmen or don’t have the assets or collateral needed for such a service. Bail, which is meant to be incentive for a person charged with a crime to show up in court, ends up keeping those who can’t pay incarcerated before they’ve had their day in court.
However this month, it seems, the bail system itself is going to have its day in court. This week a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of bail is headed to a federal judge in California. Regardless of the ruling, this seems like one of those cases that may be heading straight to the SCOTUS for a final ruling.
“At a January hearing in the case, bail agents from across the country showed up to defend their $2 billion industry. Among them was reality TV star Beth Chapman, wife of Duane Chapman,” know as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” according to KQED News. Rather than presenting evidence, the brash reality star tried to scare the court, arguing that they are “not poor” but that they “probably stole your identity.”
Ultimately, being able to put up bail is simply a means test rather than one of character. Wealthy real estate heir Robert Durst put up $350,000 when tied to his second suspicious death. Yet, he was wealthy enough to not even care when it was all gone as soon as he skipped town.
If people can’t afford to pay $2500 bail, they certainly can’t afford to pick up their lives and go on the run.
What do you think? Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.
Front image via screengrab.