Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Truthout -- I Spent 14 Months in Jail Because I Couldn't Pay My Way Out

With President Donald Trump in the White House and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department, the exploitative bail industry is in a good position to profit even more off of Americans who can’t afford legal representation. So the stories of the Justice Department and the bail industry’s exploitation are important and timely.

Lawmakers across the United Stares are finding ways to turn protesting into a crime, the Trump Administration’s rescindment of Obama order ending use of private prisons, and Jeff Sessions’ plans for the Civil-Rights Division should be of great concern.

“On any given day, more than 7,000 people are incarcerated at Chicago's Cook County Jail. Stretching over 11 city blocks, Cook County Jail is the largest single-site jail in the United States. Ninety-five percent of the people locked up in Cook County Jail have not been convicted of a crime. They are incarcerated pretrial -- and 62 percent of them are there only because they cannot afford to pay a monetary bond.

“In Cook County, bond court hearings last a mere 37 seconds on average. In that time, a judge makes bail decisions that reshape the entire course of people's cases, and often, their lives. For many people, the judge's decision includes setting a money bond they must pay before they can be released from jail. The amount of that bond -- and whether their family or friends can pay it -- then determines whether they await their trial in freedom or in a cage.

“Felony cases in Cook County commonly take more than a year to resolve, and some take several years. Right now, more than 4,000 people are being incarcerated in Cook County because they cannot pay bonds that were set using less than a minute's worth of information.”

I Spent 14 Months in Jail Because I Couldn't Pay My Way Out

By Lavette Mayes and Matthew McLoughlin