Should Atlanta’s Bail System Be Revised?
Most people are familiar with America’s system of bail, even if they haven’t had to deal with it personally. When you are arrested, you must pay to be released in many instances. Even for a minor charge, you may be required to post bail before you can go home. If you can’t pay, you stay in jail until you get the opportunity to be heard in front of a judge.
For some people, this is not an issue. Although no one wants to be set back financially, they are able to secure their way out of custody, go home and appear in court when they are told to do so. That is not the case for everyone. For some, even a couple of hundred dollars is unaffordable and they are forced to remain in custody. Such has been the case in Atlanta, and people are calling for change.
Legal Action Already Taken
A lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights has filed two petitions so far and secured the release of two men who were being held because they couldn’t post bail. One man was arrested for disorderly conduct. His bail was set at $500, an amount he couldn’t pay. He was in jail for more than 90 days before he was released, thanks to attorney Sarah Geraghty.
Another person was arrested for holding a sign saying that he was homeless and needed help. He was charged with illegally soliciting motorists in a roadway. He was unable to pay his $200 bail, never saw a public defender and, ultimately, his case was dismissed. He was lost in the system and spent more than 70 days in jail.
How the Bail System Works
As it stands, bail amounts are tied to charges. One person charged with disorderly conduct, for example, is charged no higher or lower than someone else charged with a similar crime in order to be released. The system does not take into account a person’s ability to pay. While some call bail an incentive to appear in court as ordered, others say that judges can release people on their own recognizance and charge the full amount of bail if they do not appear.
Both the mayor of Atlanta and the governor of Georgia appear poised to take on the issue of reform. The mayor has said that it is in her agenda to create a criminal justice reform commission. The governor has initiated a multiyear criminal justice reform himself. Until things change with Atlanta’s bail system, grassroots organizations have sprung up, paying for the release of those who can’t afford it. The problem is that many of these people may not be aware that there is help available.
If you have been arrested for a crime in Atlanta, reach out to our office. We will help you arrange a free case evaluation and advise you of your legal options. Do not attempt to fight for your freedom on your own and risk everything. We are here to assist you.