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Detroit court will require judges to justify cash bail and assess ability to pay

A Michigan district court will implement reforms that will force judges in Detroit to state on record how implementing cash bail will protect the community. The reforms are meant to end practices that commonly jail people from low-income and Black communities and could serve as a model for court systems across the US, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said. In 2019, the ACLU, the Legal Defense Fund, the Bail Project and the law firm…

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Changes made by a Michigan district court will compel judges in Detroit to explain in writing how using cash bail will safeguard the neighborhood.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the reforms might serve as a template for court systems across the US and aim to abolish practices that frequently imprison members of low-income and Black communities.

The cash bail system in Detroit was challenged in a lawsuit in 2019 by the ACLU, the Legal Defense Fund, the Bail Project, and the law firm Covington & Burling, who claimed that it disproportionately imprisons Black and brown individuals.

On behalf of seven Black Detroiters, the lawsuit was brought against Michigan’s two-tiered court system, which grants freedom contingent upon the payment of bail.

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According to William McConico, chief judge of the 36th District Court, the lawsuit’s settlement offered a chance to demonstrate how activists and law enforcement may collaborate to alter the criminal justice system.

Advocates warned that the case’s implications could be seen in other states where thousands of people are detained because they cannot afford bond.

Inappropriate usage of cash bail is pervasive across the country, according to Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan.

“It’s true that cash bail is being utilized to incarcerate people just because they can’t afford to buy their freedom in practically every part of this country, save from the few locations that have implemented changes,”

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The new regulations mandate that courts make an on-record evaluation of how much a defendant can afford to pay in bond in addition to proving how imposing bail will safeguard the community.

A defendant will be deemed unable to post a cash bond if their income is 200 percent of the federal poverty line or below, or around $27,000 for an individual and $55,000 for a family of four.

Judge McConico declared that “being impoverished would no longer lead to uneven justice.” This agreement protects judicial discretion while ensuring that judges use it sensibly and lawfully.

The agreement is valid for a period of two to five years.

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