We will bail out as many people as we can, but we know that thousands of people will still be stuck in Philadelphia’s jails – losing weeks, months, or even years of their lives simply because they can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for their release. This is why we must end the use of cash bail, for everyone.
We must end cash bail and pretrial detention if we want to significantly decrease Philadelphia’s overreliance on incarceration. Every day, there are thousands of people held in Philadelphia’s jails solely because they cannot afford to pay for their release. Philadelphia has the fourth highest incarceration rate of the nation’s 50 largest cities, with nearly 6 of every 1,000 residents behind bars, and the majority are still awaiting trial. Nearly two-thirds of the roughly 6,700 people currently detained in Philadelphia’s jails are still waiting for their day in court, and at least a quarter are being held on money bail alone, denying their fundamental right of the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty”. Philadelphia detains one in every two defendants pretrial, and the average Philadelphia defendant spends 25 days in jail pretrial before posting bail.
Bail is also racially discriminatory. Black defendants have 44 percent higher odds of being denied bail and kept in jail pretrial than white defendants with similar legal circumstances. In Philadelphia, Black people are five times as likely to be incarcerated, twice as likely to be imprisoned once arrested, and three times as likely to receive probation compared to white people.
Bail is not only racist and inhumane, it is costly. A recent report put out by the Philadelphia City Controller found that over $20 million in direct costs can be saved each year by eliminating cash bail for those who cannot otherwise afford to pay, and estimated that the city would save between $37,031 and $40,000 per person released pre-trial.
Instead of profiting off of people in cages, we want to see our politicians invest in our communities and the resources and supports that we know to keep people safe — like housing, public education, living wage jobs, harm reduction, and mental health treatment. As bail reform sweeps the country, we want Philadelphia to step up and put an end to the human rights violation of cash bail. The Department of Justice has already announced that our nation’s current money bail system is unconstitutional, and our neighbors are leading the way for us — New Jersey recently passed comprehensive bail reform policies, and Washington DC ended their use of cash bail years ago. Other cities have successfully changed their pre-trial detention process without an adverse impact on public safety, while at the same time protecting the rights of the accused and providing accountability to ensure appearance in court. Cash bail only serves as a tool of oppression against the poor and against Black and Brown people who are disproportionately impacted and perpetuates the machine of mass incarceration.
We believe nobody should have to pay for their freedom, and we urge Philadelphia stakeholders to take action now to put an end to cash bail.
It’s going to take our collective effort to restore the freedom, safety, and well-being of communities that are targeted by structural violence and mass incarceration. Ending money-based detention is an urgent step on this path toward liberation. Join us.