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Fault Lines Chasing Bail 5.24.14

It’s an open secret that the bail and bail bond systems — like other aspects in the criminal justice infrastructure — take a different toll on individuals depending on their ability to pay. When the poor can’t afford bail, the poor stay locked up. Making this point, a few years back Laura Sullivan for NPR made a phenomenal three-part series that skewered the bail bond system.

CHASING BAIL

We have a more recent view at the lives and fortunes at stake in a criminal justice system influenced by market rules. Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines series has a pedigree when it comes to criminal justice reporting, so I eagerly anticipate Chasing Bail which examines America’s multi-billion dollar bail bond industry. Two of  approximately 15,000 bounty hunters are featured in the show, also.

In the show, reporter Sebastian Walker meets the family of 56-year old Jerome Murdough, who was found dead in a 101-degree Rikers Island  jail cell, NY. Murdough was unable to make his $2,500 bail and awaiting trial at the time of his death. He was jailed for a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

The program makers also go to Prince George’s County Detention Center, Baltimore, MD — a region with one of the highest arrest rates in the country — and interviews prisoners incarcerated on bails of less than $3,000. People, the program explains, who are incarcerated pre-trial are far more likely to plead guilty.

The program also follows Rob Dick, a bounty hunters in Sacramento, CA — a county in which courts set over $16 million in bail money each month.

Al Jazeera writes:

The U.S. is one of only two countries (along with the Philippines) that allows companies to bail people out of jail at a profit. In all but 4 states, bail bondsmen are allowed to take almost any legal measure necessary to capture fugitives, including crossing state lines and breaking into homes. It’s a dangerous business for almost everyone involved, with few rules and little oversight.

In a nation where, on any given day, nearly 70% of the jailed population is awaiting judgment – how does money affect who goes free and who stays behind bars?

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Fault Lines’ Chasing Bail airs at 7pm ET/4pm PT, Saturday, May 24th. Find out how to tune in near you.

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The Fault Lines programme on English Al-Jazeera looks at America’s aging prison population. Reporter Josh Rushing gets exclusive access across the US, but the most astounding footage is from the Geriatric Unit of the Joseph Harp Correction Center, Lexington, Oklahoma.

Fault Lines also visits the Mabel Bassett Correction Center, Oklahoma’s largest women’s prison.

NOTES

* At the time of filming, Oklahoma’s prison system was operating at 75% staffing, referred to by administration as “warehouse mode”; housing but not rehabilitating prisoners.

* Check out Sherman Parker’s situation beginning at 9.38. Sherman is 100 years old. He is cared for by Seth Anderson, another inmate convicted for kidnap and drug and weapon possession. Anderson speaks frankly about the hospice care at the Dick Conner Correctional Center, Oklahoma.

* Prisoners over 55 years account for the fastest growing class of inmates in America.

* Only three out of every 100 inmates over 55 years return to prison after release, compared to the national average of over 60%.

* Fishkill Correctional Facility, 70 miles north of New York is the nations first purpose-built unit for the cognitively impaired. The average age is 63 and many prisoners suffer from Alzheimer’s and other conditions of dementia.

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