February 24, 2016
Press Release


WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) introduced the “No Money Bail Act of 2016,” a bail reform bill that seeks to eliminate the use of money bail because no one should be held in jail solely because of the inability to pay bail.

Joined by the bill’s original co-sponsors, Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Brenda Lawrence, and Ruben Gallego, Congressman Lieu held a press conference introducing the “No Money Bail Act of 2016,” which has been endorsed by several leading advocacy groups.

Congressman Ted Lieu
“America’s broken criminal justice system goes against the core of our values.  We cannot both be a nation that believes in freedom and equal justice under the law, yet at the same time, locks up thousands of people solely because they cannot afford bail.  We cannot both be a nation that believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, yet incarcerate over 450,000 Americans who have not been convicted of a crime.  Throughout the nation, those with money can buy their freedom while poor defendants stay behind bars awaiting trial.  Further horrifying, many people decide to plead guilty purely to get out of jail because they cannot afford bail.  America should not be a country where freedom is based on income.  We are better than this.”  

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
“The standard operating procedures for our criminal justice system today – from mass incarceration, to sentencing biases, to monetary bail ― have debilitating costs for our communities and our budgets.  During my time in New Jersey’s legislature, and continuing here in Congress, I’ve fought for reforms that will ensure our justice system focuses on rehabilitation, maintains equal treatment, and considers alternatives to incarceration.  I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this bill, because it’s time for change.  Sitting behind bars before you’ve been convicted of a crime -- not because you’re a danger to the community but simply because you can’t pay to get out-- is exactly the kind of outrageous status quo that has caused so much societal damage.”

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence
“I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Congressman Lieu’s “NO MONEY BAIL ACT OF 2016,” as this legislation addresses one of the biggest roadblocks for economically disadvantaged Americans seeking justice in our states’ criminal court systems,” Rep. Lawrence said. “If you cannot afford bail, you are left to languish in jail until your trial. This misuse of resources has turned into a massive drain on valuable tax dollars as some individuals have been jailed for days, weeks, months, and even years before their cases are heard. People stuck in jail while awaiting trial face far greater pressure to accept plea bargains. With each day they are denied bail, they face a greater risk of losing their jobs, custody of their children, and other rights that, ironically, can be later used against them in court. If America is to continue to claim that our criminal justice system is the best in the world, we must address this fundamental inequity.” 

Congressman Ruben Gallego
“It is unconscionable that hundreds of thousands of Americans who haven’t been convicted of a crime and don’t present a threat to public safety are stuck in jail awaiting their trials because they can’t afford bail. This system disproportionately affects people of color, the poor and the disabled, while allowing those with means to buy their freedom. A supervised release system would save money, reduce jail populations, and ensure that low-income individuals are able to maintain their employment and aren’t roped into bad plea deals. Bail should be based on risk, not resources.”

Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of
“We are proud to support the No More Money Bail Act and believe this bill will address the financial and psychological harm money bail has on Black inmates and their families. Black people face 35% higher bail than white people for the same charges. As our hearts still mourn Kalief Browder and Sandra Bland, who both died because of their inability to afford bail, we call on Members of Congress to stand with Congressman Ted Lieu and co-sponsor this bill. We must stop being a nation that locks up our citizens based on their inability to pay monetary bail.”

Rebecca Vallas, Managing Director of Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress
"With 2.3 million Americans behind bars in prison or jail, and 1 in 3 Americans now living with some type of criminal record, our nation's failed experiment with mass incarceration and over-criminalization has reached a tipping point. As momentum continues to build in support of overhauling our criminal justice system, the lion's share of the bipartisan focus in Washington has rightly centered on the need for sentencing reform, through proposals like tackling overly harsh mandatory minimums. Meanwhile, we must not lose sight of an important but all too rarely discussed component of the mass incarceration crisis: the 12 million Americans who cycle in and out of local jails each year. Many spend weeks, months, and even years behind bars awaiting their day in court simply because they cannot afford to post bail. This is a national disgrace, and one that runs counter to our nation's core values. As Congress works together to build a fair and equitable justice system, failure to address this grave injustice risks missing a major piece of the puzzle. It's long past time that we as a nation stopped punishing people for the crime of being poor."

Penny Stinson, President of the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies
“In its Standards for Pretrial Release, the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA) reiterates the Association's opposition to the traditional money bail system. Money bail inherently discriminates against the poor and removes the decision about actual release from custody from the court to profit-motivated entities. Most troubling is the lack of relationship between a defendant's ability to post a monetary bond and their reliability to return to court or threat to community safety.  In short, money is not a legitimate stakeholder and has no place in an evidence-based pretrial system.”

Jo-Ann Wallace, the National Legal Aide & Defender Association
“The use of money bail to deprive people of their liberty based on how much money they have has no place in a justice system that seeks to protect public safety and respect for human dignity. The No Money Bail Act makes a powerful statement about the critical place of bail reform within the broader criminal justice reform movement.”

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute
“The Pretrial Justice Institute enthusiastically supports this legislation because America needs overarching bail reform. All across this nation, too many nonviolent people are stuck in jail pretrial because they are too poor to post money bail."

Southern Poverty Law Center
"The Southern Poverty Law Center supports this important federal reform effort to reform our troubled cash bail bond system,” said Sam Brooke, Southern Poverty Law Center deputy legal director.  "This current system, active in most states, ignores factors such as ties to the community and flight risk, and instead sets an arbitrary dollar amount people must pay to get out. People must literally buy their freedom, even though they have not been convicted of anything.  When the poor cannot do this, they languish in jail for often months or years until their trials.  The No More Money Bail Act of 2016 seeks to end this harmful practice and restore economic fairness to our justice system.”

More than 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, of which 450,000 individuals have never been convicted of a crime and are often detained because they cannot afford to pay bail.  America’s current money bail system rejects the principle of innocent until proven guilty.  Many people decide to plead guilty purely to get out of jail because they cannot afford bail.  Throughout the nation, those with money can buy their freedom while poor defendants stay behind bars awaiting trial.  Congressman Lieu’s “No Money Bail Act” ends the money bail system because America should not be a country where freedom is based on income.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Southern Poverty Law Center, Equal Justice Under Law, The Pretrial Justice Institute, The Drug Policy Alliance, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, The Sentencing Project, Color of Change, The National Legal Aide & Defender Association, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, ArchCity Defenders, The Southern Center for Human Rights, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People