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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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