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Opinion

The U.S. Bail System Punishes the Poor and Rewards the Rich

By Arpit Gupta and Ethan Frenchman

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Other states must take up the mantle, so that America moves swiftly and radically to stop punishing the poor.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans go to jail without being convicted of a crime—simply because they are too poor to make bail. Jurisdictions across the country rely on money bail to determine who goes free before trial. Not only is this system an enormous waste of public resources, it does deep injustice to people who are still presumed innocent.

Richard Stanford, for example, is a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran who lives with his daughter in Baltimore County, Maryland. He had exactly 31 cents to his name when he was arrested on May 17 for trespassing. But the judge set his bail at $2,600.

Stanford could have asked his daughter for help, but she can barely pay her own bills on her modest medical technician salary. So he sat in jail for three weeks on what is euphemistically referred to as the “expedited docket”—no trials, no witnesses, just guilty pleas or postponements to the next trial date. Desperate to get out of jail, Stanford waived his rights and pled guilty to a time-served sentence. He was sentenced to three weeks, the amount of time he had already served in jail, and released that afternoon.

Read the full article as published by Quartz

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Arpit Gupta is an Assistant Professor of Finance.