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NC Episcopal Convention: Reform the bail system, support pre-trial release

Add another voice to the chorus calling for reform of North Carolina’s cash bail system: The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.

Earlier this month, at its 203rd annual convention, the group adopted a resolution committing to “examine current judicial pretrial release procedures within our state.”

Policy Watch has written extensively about the cash bail system and its alternatives. The resolution points to a number of its failings illuminated in our coverage over the last year.

“Our current cash money-bail system of pretrial release dates back to medieval England where its primary purpose was to insure a defendant’s appearance before a court,” the group wrote in a comment included with the resolution. “This antiquated system of pretrial release has proven inefficient and inequitable in our time, and currently only two countries throughout the world utilize commercial money-bail systems for pretrial release: the United States, and the Philippines.”

From the group’s further comments, attached to the resolution:

“The use of the money-bail system in our time has led to a system of inequity in which those of abundant resources are able to secure their liberty virtually no matter the amount required, while so many others of little means linger in our jails unable to remit even the most minimal bond requirements,” the group continued in its comment. “This system of money for liberty has led to the destruction of countless lives in the form of lost employment, housing, child custody, and basic living staples.

The financial struggles many county governments face each year to maintain facilities to house, feed, cloth and provide medical care for defendants that are able to return to daily life, maintain employment, and provide for their families while awaiting trial.

Although it cost approximately $82.00 per day to incarcerate a defendant, the majority of those incarcerated upon arrest are not convicted. And, of those who are convicted, the vast majority are defendants that are unable to secure the money required to pay bail. Additionally, defendants that are unable to pay bail are four times more likely to receive an active jail sentence upon conviction.

The amount of money paid to the commercial bail industry continues to increase and there continue to be large disparities in bond amounts across racial categories.

Five states: Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, Alaska, and California have recently rewritten their bail laws utilizing the most current evidenced based methods of achieving equitable pretrial release. And, currently Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah have commissioned working groups to consider bail reform. In our own state many different commissions and working groups continue to examine this important issue, with one county, Mecklenburg, currently utilizing the Arnold Foundation’s Public Safety Assessment (PSA) tool to help judges assess risk while setting pretrial conditions of release.”


The diocese claims 111 congregations and 10 campus ministries throughout 38 counties across North Carolina.

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