Media Contact

Citlaly Mora, ACLU of North Carolina, 919-808-2175 cmora@acluofnc.org

May 8, 2020

Starting July 1, people in Alamance County will no longer be jailed because they are too poor to pay bail

GRAHAM, N.C. - People arrested in Alamance County will no longer be jailed because they are too poor to pay bail under an interim agreement approved by a federal court today. This agreement will remain in place while the rest of the 2019 class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Civil Rights Corps proceeds. Under the terms of the consent preliminary injunction, people in Alamance County Detention Center will now receive an individual determination of their ability to pay bail, a prompt opportunity to be heard by a judge, and representation by an attorney at their first court appearance. 

In November 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, and Civil Rights Corps filed Allison v. Allen, a federal class-action lawsuit against court officials in Alamance County. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three people incarcerated in the Alamance County jail who could not afford to pay the bail amount set by a magistrate with no consideration of their ability to pay and no attorney provided during bail setting.

“A person’s freedom should never depend on how much money they have,” said Leah Kang, a staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This agreement is a victory for people in Alamance County because it ensures that no one will be held in the Alamance County jail only because they are unable to pay their bond. We will continue to monitor the county’s compliance with the agreement and work to eliminate wealth-based incarceration once and for all.” 

“This agreement is good news for everyone in Alamance County, especially communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by wealth-based incarceration,” said Katherine Hubbard, an attorney for Civil Rights Corps. “Jailing people because they’re too poor to pay bail is an affront to our most fundamental principles of justice, so we’re glad Alamance County is taking important steps toward ending these unconstitutional and harmful practices.”

The consent preliminary injunction ensures that, while the case continues to be fought in federal court, people arrested in Alamance County will no longer suffer under the old unconstitutional cash bail practices that the groups say locked up poor people simply because they could not afford to pay for their freedom while allowing those who had money to go home. 

Background: 

More than 80 percent of all people charged with crimes in Alamance County are issued a secured bond -- one of the highest rates in the state. Under the county’s old pretrial release policies, magistrates set those monetary conditions for a person’s release without any knowledge or inquiry of a person’s ability to pay. For those who could not afford to pay, cash bail operated as a detention order, which are constitutionally permissible only where the state has abided by heightened procedural and substantive requirements, the lawsuit argues. 

Under the terms of the consent preliminary injunction, magistrates and judges will be required to conduct an inquiry into a person’s ability to pay before setting a bail amount in that person’s case. In addition, all people who are arrested in Alamance County will be provided assistance of counsel and the opportunity to be heard by a judge within 48 hours of their arrest. 

A copy of the court-approved consent preliminary injunction is available at https://www.acluofnorthcarolina.org/sites/default/files/56_order_grantin...