San Francisco County sued for incarcerating poor people that can’t afford bail

Jail cell

A new class-action lawsuit could stop the incarceration of tens of thousands of people in California jails. Non-profit group Equal Justice Under Law has filed a lawsuit claiming that judges are setting unreasonably high bails in San Francisco County, resulting in jail sentences for those who can’t afford to pay.
For the poor a jail sentence can be especially catastrophic, resulting in loss of wages or loss of employment, plus additional unexpected costs such as childcare that they simply can’t afford. As a result, some poor defendants end up depending on the bail bond industry for payment. Think Progress reports:

Crystal Patterson, 29, faced a $150,000 bail for her charges under the automated bail schedule the county uses. Desperate to be released because she is the sole caretaker for an elderly relative, but barely scraping by on a $12.50 hourly wage of her own, Patterson turned to the

industry. Because she couldn’t pay the standard 10 percent fee such firms charge, she instead pulled together $1,500 from friends and then signed an agreement to repay the full $15,000 bonding charge – plus interest.

In other words, even the poor people that manage to stay out of jail often end up paying significantly more for bail than they would if they could afford the original payment.

Many people want to change the current system, but the county’s hands are tied. See more below.

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