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Reformers call for changes to cash bail system

In Connecticut and across the country, inequities around cash bail have sparked widespread calls for change. Cash bail systems mean that people living in poverty who are jailed for misdemeanor charges or minor drug cases are unable to post bail, remaining in jail before trial, while wealthy people facing much more serious charges like rape or murder are able to pay for their freedom. Research has indicated that pretrial detention can have a serious impact on the outcome of a criminal trial. People detained before their trials are often more likely to be convicted or face higher sentences regardless of the seriousness of the underlying charges.

There are several proposals to change Connecticut’s cash bail system in line with reforms being implemented elsewhere in the country. Some are proposing that pretrial detention be based solely on the charges involved and whether a person is considered dangerous or a flight risk rather than involving cash and asset-based guarantees. One state senator said that the cash bail system as it currently exists is essentially a further punishment for poverty. Pre-trial detention can make many people’s situations much worse, even if they are eventually exonerated. They may lose their jobs or their housing while detained and face additional pressure to plead guilty in order to resolve their case more quickly.

Other states, such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, have also restricted the use of cash bail after widespread demands for reform. Police agencies and the bail bond industry are opposed to changing the cash bail system, however, arguing that reforms make people unsafe.

Criminal charges can have many serious consequences for a person’s life, including a criminal record that can interfere with employment, housing and education. A criminal defense attorney may help people to present a strong defense and fight to avoid a conviction.

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