RALEIGH — North Carolinians across the ideological spectrum overwhelmingly support reforming the state’s bail system, according to a statewide poll commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina.
The survey of 580 North Carolina voters shows that 74 percent would support efforts to reform North Carolina’s bail system and make the process of deciding whether to jail or free someone before their trial “less reliant on money and more dependent on the circumstances of each individual.” Only 12 percent said they opposed efforts to reform North Carolina’s bail system.
The findings from Public Policy Polling are being released one day before North Carolina’s Courts Commission, a committee of state legislators, judges, and other public officials, will discuss issues related to bail and pretrial release at a meeting.
“There is clear support from North Carolinians across the political spectrum for changing our current bail practices so that the amount of money in someone’s bank account no longer determines whether they will go free or languish in jail while they wait days, weeks, or months for their trial,” said Sarah Gillooly, the director of political strategy and advocacy for the ACLU of North Carolina. “Jailing people who are no threat to public safety simply because they cannot afford to pay bail is unjust, costly for taxpayers, and does not make our state safer. We’re glad to see the Courts Commission take up this very important issue, and we encourage officials across the state to explore and support alternatives to bail so that money doesn’t determine someone’s freedom.”
Under North Carolina’s current bail system, thousands of people, particularly poor people and people of color, are routinely jailed without being convicted of a crime because they cannot afford to pay the costly bail amounts that would allow them to return home before their trial. Many are forced to turn to for-profit bail bonds companies that require a non-refundable fee and can trap people in years of debt. Eighty-six percent of people in North Carolina jails have not been convicted of a crime, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.