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Congressman Ted Lieu

Representing the 33rd District of California

REPS LIEU AND CURBELO LEAD BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO CURB COSTLY AND UNFAIR BAIL SYSTEMS

October 10, 2017
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON – Today, Reps. Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) were joined by Reps. Mia Love (R-Utah) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) in introducing the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill that incentivizes moving away from a money bail system. Under money bail systems, the decision to detain a person prior to their trial is based on their ability to pay bail instead of their flight risk or danger to society. The system disproportionately affects the poor, is expensive, and does not make Americans safer.

This bill represents a bicameral effort to curb unjust bail practices and is the companion legislation to S.1593, which was introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-California) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) in the Senate.  The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act encourages states to replace their existing bail systems with pretrial risk assessments—a more just system for evaluating the flight and safety risk of defendants facing trial. An individualized risk assessment considers factors such as a person’s past criminal history and the current charge. A handful of places throughout the United States, including Kentucky and the District of Columbia, have already implemented or are in the process of implementing such a system.

Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Lieu issued the following statement:

“Everyone is entitled to due process under the Constitution. The way that most states have their bail systems set up means the poorest defendants are punished before their trial, simply because they cannot afford bail. It also means that wealthy but potentially dangerous defendants can avoid pretrial custody.

Locking up Americans before they have their day in court simply because they are poor is un-American. Moving to a system where bail decisions are instead based on flight and safety risk will not only restore justice to our criminal justice system, but it will also keep us safer and save taxpayer dollars. In Kentucky, which has used a risk assessment tool in recent years, nearly 90 percent of those released pretrial appeared in court. Pretrial systems based on risk cost on average $7 a day. In comparison, jail beds may cost more than $200 per day. I am pleased to introduce the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act with Congressman Curbelo today to start fixing our bail system. America should never be a nation where freedom is based on income.”

Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Curbelo issued the following statement:

"Currently, bail systems in states across the country effectively discriminate against poorer defendants," Curbelo said.  "Even the smallest financial penalty can be more than a family that is already living paycheck-to-paycheck can afford. Defendants who lack the means to pay are often left incarcerated while wealthier and sometimes more dangerous defendants wait for their day in court with all the comforts of home. The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act would help modernize our bail system so that bail is set on flight and safety risk instead of financial means — better protecting the American public from more dangerous criminals and giving less fortunate offenders an equal opportunity to prepare for their day in court."

Upon introduction of this legislation, Ms. Love issued the following statement:

“Americans rightfully expect our justice system to administer equal and fair treatment, while keeping communities safe. This legislation will help states craft solutions that meet these expectations, and I’m proud to cosponsor it.”

 

Upon introduction of this legislation, Ms. Jackson Lee issued the following statement:

 

"I am pleased to be an original co-sponsor of the 'Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017'. Although our justice system is designed to treat all people equally, that is not always the case.  Justice is supposed to be blind, which means that justice is impartial and objective.  Unfortunately, over 450,000 Americans sit in jail because they are unable to afford to pay for bails set, even when the bail amount is not excessively high.

 

Low-income communities are disproportionally affected by the cost of high bonds.  The Supreme Court ruled in Bearden v. Georgia in 1983 that the Constitution prohibits “punishing a person for his poverty.” Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old young man, was arrested on charges of stealing a backpack.  The judge then set bail at $3,000, which his family unfortunately, could not afford. Mr. Browder was sent to jail on Rikers Island for three years while awaiting trial.  The charges were dismissed, but the time in solitary confinement caused Mr. Bowder to hang himself in 2015.  We can do better, and we should do better to prevent tragedies such as this and others from poisoning our criminal justice system.  It is time for bail reform."

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In February 2016, Congressman Lieu introduced another piece of legislation called the “No Money Bail Act”, which aims to eliminate the money bail system altogether in the United States. Both bills encourage courts to move away from the money bail system because America should not be a country where freedom is based on income. 

THE FULL TEXT OF THE BILL CAN BE FOUND HERE

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