Let’s get rid of this ridiculous tax on the poor…

Just finished belatedly reading this NPR series on how so many jail inmates are in there because they can’t afford bail.  Appalling story about how such men and women typically end up getting stiffer sentences in part because they’re in jail so can’t do anything positive like take courses or show evidence of turning their lives around to impact their sentences.

 More than a half-million inmates are sitting in America’s jails — not because they’re dangerous or a threat to society or because a judge thinks they will run. It’s not even because they are guilty; they haven’t been tried yet.

I have had a number students who have lost any stability they’ve had while languishing in jail — jobs, places of residence, etc. Their lives are destroyed by the arrest even before a trial is completed.  What’s worse, according to this article is that the cost of housing all these people is $9 billion a year.

I don’t think it’s being soft to suggest that people with petty or non-violent crimes and nowhere to go be spared the indignity of continued custody and perhaps a more punishing sentence because they don’t have the financial means that wealthier people might.  Not to mention, it’s stupid to spend all that money to incarcerate someone who might not even be convicted.  This is a really important story and it will be interesting to see if it spurs the change it should.

Readers, what do you think?

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Filed under bail, class issues, jobs ex-offenders, sentencing alternatives

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