Each year, approximately 450,000 Americans are held in jail every day because they don’t have enough money to bond out. It’s been called a “wealth-based detention scheme.” Many have had enough of this unfair system which detains poor folks even for non violent misdemeanor offenses. Many judges often set bail that they know people cannot afford as a way to keep them incarcerated. Former attorney general Eric Holder has chosen to support the cause. He believes the pretrial detention system is unconstitutional. He recently argued that judges must set bail that people can actually afford, while continuing to deny bail for those who are a danger to the community and/or a flight risk. While Holder’s focus is primarily on Maryland criminal courts, the problem exists throughout the criminal system in almost every U.S. city.
A 2014 state commission alleged that two-thirds of the inmate population is made up of pretrial detainees. 68 percent of those were stuck in jail solely because they couldn’t afford to pay for their bail. By singling out poor people and engaging in this practice, judges are violating the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.