The bail system was intended to ensure that arrested persons would return to court. Now, however, jails across the country are filled with people too poor to post exorbitant cash bonds and buy back their freedom. Because the vast majority of poor people who are arrested are Black and Latinx, the cash bail system is devastating communities of color.
We have sued judges who continue to jail innocent people for the “crime” of living in poverty.
Right now, thousands of people are being held in Mississippi county jails.
Most are there because they are too poor to make bail. As a result, they we will remain behind bars for months – even years – before trial or release.
For the first time, we have been able to make this information available to the public.Mississippi Jail Records
Federal Court Rules Orleans Parish Magistrate Judge Violating Constitutional Rights During Bond Proceedings
Caliste v. Cantrell
The MacArthur Justice Center is pursuing a federal class action lawsuit against Orleans Magistrate Judge Harry E. Cantrell challenging his practice of setting high bail amounts without any consideration of the person’s ability to pay or alternative no-cost conditions of release. Judge Cantrell also insists on using commercial bond companies (rather than cash), which require a non-reimbursable fee, a portion of which goes to the court’s General Fund – revenue Cantrell and other judges’ control.
Burks v. Scott County
The MacArthur Justice Center, the ACLU and the ACLU of Mississippi filed a class action lawsuit against Scott County (Mississippi) sheriff, district attorney, and judges after learning that the Scott County Detention Center has held people for as long as a year without appointing counsel and without indicting them. A settlement was reached in June 2018 which ended this practice by appointing public defenders at arrest.
In the news
The judge whose bail requirements leave cash-strapped defendants in jailThe Guardian February 3, 2020
Civil rights lawyers in federal bail suit ask judge to hold New Orleans Magistrate Harry Cantrell in contempt of courtJanuary 22, 2020
FEDERAL JUDGE: One Louisiana Magistrate can’t jail people just because they can’t afford bailKTVE June 14, 2019
Federal Judge Enters Consent Judgment Prohibiting New Orleans Magistrate from Jailing People Simply Because They Can’t Pay BailPress Release