Far too often, people who cannot afford bail spend weeks or months in custody as they wait for their day in court. Oftentimes, the criminal justice system leaves them with an impossible choice: take a plea deal or fight the case from behind bars.
People face significant collateral damage, such as job loss or interrupted education, as a result of even brief periods of incarceration, and research shows that pretrial detention significantly increases a defendant’s risk of conviction. Vermont has made great progress in addressing collateral consequences, including through expanding eligibility for expungement, and we can significantly reduce rates of pretrial detention by eliminating the use of cash bail for all crimes, rather than only for expungement-eligible misdemeanors.
Wealth-based detention is unfair and it is bad policy. The fact is that for real bail reform to work in Vermont, pretrial detention needs to be limited to the rare case where a person poses a serious, clear threat to another person.