And in these times of greater job precarity, almost any bail is excessively cruel for the working poor. They suffer the most in such a harsh system for upon release they may discover that they have lost their jobs, their homes, and in some cases even their families. Studies show that pretrial defendants are disproportionately more likely to be sentenced to prison than inmates out on bail, with rates three times higher than the average (click here).
This is due largely to their inability to defend themselves from behind bars and the fact that they more often take plea bargains, another court scam that targets the poor with inadequate public defense in the name of reducing caseloads. Adding insult to injury, pretrial detainees are subject to pay-to-stay prison scams that further penalize them by charging them for necessities like food, bedding, toiletries, medical, and communications. In the state of Florida, private collection agencies can inflate these prison fees by as much as 40% and if the detainee is unable to pay, they may find themselves imprisoned again for failing to appear for debt-related court dates.
There can be little doubt that the working poor suffer disproportionately under a system of false imprisonment that is euphemistically called "pretrial detention." Though Santa Barbarans voted twice against the Sheriffs prison expansion proposal, the Sheriff successfully garnered state grants to go ahead with his project.
More recently, California voters passed Proposition 47 in order to decrease the numbers of prisoners by reducing non-violent offenses to misdemeanors. The hope was to reduce prison overcrowding and pass the savings on to social services like education and mental health care. Obviously there is a prison reform movement afoot that seeks to turn back the trend toward allowing prisons to become the social service providers of last resort.
Sheriff Brown should heed this hope.
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