Why do we lock up the innocent? 90 second explainer

by Peter Wagner, September 27, 2016

Friend of the Prison Policy Initiative Bill Newman has again featured our research in his Civil Liberties Minute podcast produced with the ACLU. This time he takes on the epidemic of jailing the innocent before trial in a powerful 90 second explainer.

You can listen or subscribe on iTunes and the transcript with some links to some of the source material is below.

Thank you, Bill!

In Jail And Innocent

Why is your mother, father, sister, brother, lover or friend, who is presumed innocent, still locked up in jail?

Know this: he or she is not alone. Of the 664,000 people locked up in local jails today, 70% of them have not been convicted or sentenced for any crime. Really – 70% are locked up only because they can’t make bail.

In the past 15 years 99% of the growth in the jail population comes from people who don’t have the 50 or 100 or 250 or 400 dollars to get bailed out. When the person held on bail finally goes to court he will be offered a deal. Plead guilty and you can get out, time served, go home today. Or you can say you’re innocent and want a trial, and stay locked up for days, weeks, months, or years. What would you do?

The Eighth Amendment to The Constitution in theory guarantees a reasonable bail and bail in theory is only supposed to be used to help insure the attendance of the defendant at trial – not as a subterfuge for pre-trial detention.

But as the numbers and the lives ruined prove, the constitutional principles of reasonable bail and innocent until proven guilty really only applies to those who are economically well off enough to make their bail.

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