The United States has the shameful distinction of being the world’s leading jailer, keeping more people behind bars than any other nation on earth. This epidemic of mass incarceration has exacted a devastating toll: ruining lives, dividing families, targeting people of color, wasting taxpayer dollars, all while doing nothing to make our communities safer.
In North Carolina, 86% of the people in our jails haven’t even been convicted of a crime.
If you're arrested – even wrongfully – the amount of money you have is what often determines whether or not you can go home to your family, care for your kids, and keep your job while awaiting trial. It’s a choice: pay bail or rot in jail while you wait for your day in court.
"Innocent until proven guilty." That's how our justice system is supposed to work. But our country’s corrupt and broken system of cash bail has created a two-tiered system of justice where rich people are being treated differently for the same crimes. People who cannot afford their bail are locked up while their cases go through the courts, which can take weeks, months, or even years.
The for-profit bail industry is fueling mass incarceration in our state, jailing people who cannot afford their freedom. And it is plagued by racial injustices, disproportionally impacting people of color.
The money bail system was originally designed to ensure that people returned to court as their case progressed. It has since transformed into a system run by for-profit companies that targets those who cannot pay bail, impacting poor and middle-class households.
It is a destructive force that undermines the rights of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system, and it must be abolished. The ACLU is fighting for bail reform across the country, and many states have already begun to fix this unjust system.
North Carolina is now joining the movement as part of the ACLU’s nationwide Campaign for Smart Justice, an unprecedented, multi-year effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Money should never decide a person’s freedom, yet that’s exactly what happens every day in courts across the state.