Detroit has reformed its cash bail policy allowing many low-income individuals to be released from pre-trial detention if they are not a danger to the community, according to a CNN report.
The change came due to the settlement of a lawsuit filed by ACLU of Michigan, The Bail Project, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Covington & Burling LLP law firm with Michigan’s 36th District Court in April 2019.
“It is an endemic problem throughout the United States… incarcerating people not because they have [been convicted of] anything wrong, but because they are too poor to purchase their freedom,” said Phil Mayor, an ACLU attorney.
Mayor also noted that the 36th District Court is the first in the nation to work collaboratively with civil rights advocates in an effort to settle a lawsuit on cash bail reform, according to the July 25 report.
Chief Judge William McConico, said the “agreement preserves judicial discretion, while ensuring that judges are exercising that discretion lawfully and wisely.”
The group sued the magistrates and the chief judge of the 36th District Court and the sheriff’s department of Wayne County on behalf of seven citizens who were arrested and unable to afford cash bail.
One of the plaintiffs was Starmaine Jackson, who was arrested after a traffic stop revealed a three-year-old warrant.
Jackson was unable to afford her $700 bail, and after a week in jail, she lost her nursing job, her apartment and was separated from her two young children.
“I felt like the system failed me as a person. I felt alone and by myself in this situation,” Jackson said.
Bail reform, like the settlement, aims to curb or eliminate cash bail for individuals with misdemeanors or nonviolent offenses.
“Using money as that deciding factor just doesn’t make a lot of sense, given the construction of who finds themselves in the system,” said Cook County Public Defender Sharon R. Mitchell Jr.