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National poll: Black voters overwhelmingly want bail reform

A new national poll shows Black registered voters overwhelmingly favor fewer arrests for minor offenses, more support services in the community and pre-trial release decisions based on public safety—not on the ability to pay a money bond.

The poll, released this week, was commissioned by the Pretrial Justice Institute and the National Urban League.

Some key findings from the poll:

  • 87 percent of respondents strongly favor reducing arrests for low-level, nonviolent offenses.
  • 86 percent of respondents said the wealthy enjoy substantially better justice outcomes than poor and working class people.
  • 78 percent of respondents said white people have more favorable justice outcomes than people of color
  • 78 percent support reducing arrests by issuing citations rather than issuing arrests for certain offenses.
  • 65 percent of Black respondents feel strongly that the criminal justice system should not jail people only because they cannot afford money bail.

The poll, administered by Lake Research Partners, was conducted by professional phone interviewers May 2-17, 2018. It has a margin of error of +/- 5.8 percent.

“These poll results reinforce what the National Urban League has known for a long time: pretrial reforms are urgently needed and Americans rightfully prioritize it.” said  Donald R. Cravins, Jr., Senior Vice President for Policy & Executive Director of the Washington Bureau of the National Urban League.

“Every day, an average of 700,000 people who haven’t been convicted of a crime are separated from their families because they can’t afford money bail,” said Cravins. “And almost 80 percent of Black women in jails are mothers and primary caregivers accused of minor drug or ‘public order’ offenses.”

“Without significant overhaul of the current system, the engines of mass incarceration for the Black community will continue to churn,” Cravins said.

“Pretrial injustice is the gateway to mass incarceration,” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer of the Pretrial Justice Institute.

“We know that the burdens of this injustice are felt most acutely by people of color,” Burdeen said. “The combination of racial bias in our criminal justice system and our nation’s history of economic exclusion mean that African Americans are more likely to be arrested, less likely to be able to afford secured money bond, and more likely to be detained than their white counterparts.”

Over the last year, Policy Watch has detailed numerous examples of individual and systemic corruption within the North Carolina bail systemthe system’s frequently unjust impact on the poor and the concerns of veteran jurists that profit and politics have compromised the original intent of state statutes dealing with bail as well as the presumption of innocence.

Many judgespublic defenders, reform groups and bail agents themselves agree the current system and the for-profit bail industry it feeds are badly flawed.

The Pretrial Working Group Subcommittee of the NC Courts Commission is now meeting to study the issue and suggest legislative actions to the General Assembly.

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