As Texas attorneys who work on jail release, we see many reasons why people end up incarcerated. They are not always linked to the severity of a crime.
Recently, we noted how many inmates were not being released from Harris County Jail due to their poverty.
It’s not just happening in Texas. The U.S. Justice Department took aim at the practice recently, NBC news reported. The Justice Department believes that incarcerating people due to an inability to pay is unconstitutional.
Increasingly, the Obama administration is encouraging state courts to move away from the practice of fixing set bail amounts.
Ability to Pay Linked to Jail Release May be Unconstitutional
In a brief, the justice department said bail practices that jail indigent individuals before their trial solely due to their inability to pay to get out of jail violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The amendment states that no individual should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
The federal filing in question came in the case of Maurice Walker of Calhoun, Georgia. Walker remained in jail for six nights. He was arrested for the misdemeanor of being a pedestrian under the influence of alcohol. He was informed he could not get out of jail unless he paid the fixed bail amount of $160.
Similar cases were highlighted in Houston. An article in Think Progress described the plight of Robert Ryan Ford, a 26-year-old man with no job or bank account who was informed he had to pay $5,000 to get out of Harris County Jail.
The Think Progress article described how as many as 77 percent of people being held in Harris County Jail are incarcerated because they couldn’t afford to pay bail of $5,000 or even less. In the six years from 2009 to 2015, 55 people died in the jail while being held there because they could not afford to make bail.
Our Texas criminal defense lawyers help clients negotiate the difficulties of jail release. You can read more about how we can help you here.
Our bail bond attorneys will offer guidance support and keep up the pressure on the authorities if you should not be behind bars.