One of the great equalizers here in the United States is that laws are supposed to apply equally to all of us. Moreover, we are all innocent until proven guilty. However, this may not always be the case, particularly when a defendant does not have the cash to post bail here in North Carolina. According to legal advocates, there are thousands of people sitting in jail without being convicted of a crime. The defendants can sit in jail for weeks, months or years because they cannot raise the cash to post bail as their case goes through the court system.
Punishment before the court date
According to a recent report, there are nearly 500,000 people not convicted of a crime locked up in local jails. This process, known as pretrial detention, also is a sign of other unsettling facts:
- Pretrial detention leads to higher conviction rates
- Pretrial detention leads to longer and harsher sentences
- Pretrial detention leads to a higher likelihood of further contact with the justice system
- Pretrial detention disproportionately affects minorities
Putting people behind bars has a significant impact on the defendant and the justice system. Individuals in lower economic sectors often lose jobs that they could otherwise use for supporting themselves. It also puts a strain on families as parents cannot support their children, lose custody of their children and prevent them from providing a suitable place for the family to live. Not only does incarceration mean the expense to the justice system of keeping someone locked up, but it also leads to entire families becoming an unnecessary burden to other government services already stretched thin.
Smart justice is equal justice
This national movement is making inroads in certain communities and even spurred some changes to the federal system under President Trump’s First Step Act of 2018. This bill is a rare example of bipartisan support in both the U.S. Senate and House. Change over pretrial detention may be on the horizon for North Carolina. However, speaking with an attorney regarding a defendant in pretrial detention is often advised. These legal professionals can explore different options to help ensure that the defendant gets the justice they deserve.