The U.S. justice system is massively tipped in favor of the rich. No matter how heinous the crime is, the wealthy can walk free as they await trial if they’ve got the cash for bail. Poor people don’t have the luxury of paying their way out of trouble. Shouldn’t we face the same consequences, regardless of socioeconomic status? It’s time for a change, according to Rolling Stone.
Jeff Rivera, a 23-year-old construction worker from the Bronx, got into a heated argument with his wife. During the blow-up, Rivera pounded and pushed in her screen door. Rivera was apprehended and charged with a misdemeanor and criminal mischief.
A judge set a $500 bail for Rivera, even though he has no criminal history and is not charged with a violent crime.
“There’s absolutely no reason to set bail on someone like Jeff…” said Rivera’s lawyer, Alexandra Bonacarti of New York County Defender Services. “Bail is for guaranteeing that a person appears at trial. It’s not a punishment.”
Rivera did not have the money to post bail and he was hauled off to the Manhattan Detention Complex, a place infamously known as “The Tombs.”
“I was shocked. There are real criminals in there, murderers and rapists,” Rivera said. “You’ve got to be real careful about what you say in there. One word can set somebody off.”
Rivera was in the Tombs for six days, during which he witnessed inmates get into a melee, after he was released on his own recognizance. The bail is still unpaid, the case is still open, and he is due in court in July.
RS highlighted Rivera’s story to show the impact of the bail system on citizens who don’t have the socioeconomic status to avoid jail and commit minor offenses.
“Many defendants lose jobs while they’re waiting for courts to decide their guilt or innocence. Others lose semesters of school study. In other cases, people can lose custody of children,” the story says.
But according to a recent New York Times article, some argue that the bail system is necessary because it is more effective than law enforcement in getting defendants to court.
“Bail probably is the single most reliable assurance that somebody will show up,” said Judge Steve White, president of the Alliance of California Judge.
Others say the racial and income disparities in the court system are too glaring too ignore.
Several states, including Connecticut, New York, and Arizona, are advocating to overhaul the bail system. Colorado and New Jersey recently voted on revamping the system, the NY Times said.
Do you agree or disagree with Judge White?