The case for ending cash bail

The case for ending cash bail

People accused of crimes in New Orleans paid $6.8 million in bail fees and premiums in 2017 and another $1.9 million in conviction fees. The vast majority of that money – 88 percent of bail costs and 69 percent of conviction fees – was paid by Black families. That’s according to a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice, released on Wednesday, that recommends ending the use of cash bail. As Nicholas Chrastil writes for The Lens, the report says the current system is unnecessarily expensive, discriminatory toward low-income residents and ineffective as a tool to reduce crime.  

Aside from whether or not they are just, there are financial obstacles that would come along with eliminating bail and conviction fees in New Orleans: the court currently relies them for 25% of its operating budget, according to the report, and the offices of the public defender and the district attorney rely on them as well, to a lesser extent. In 2017 the court took in nearly $2 million in bail and conviction fees, while the district attorney’s office and the public defenders office took in around $500,000 and $400,000, respectively. In order to replace that lost revenue, the Vera report suggests increasing city funding to criminal justice agencies by $2.8 million annually, split between the court the DAs office, and the public defenders. Those funds, they argue, would come from money saved by having fewer people in jail and a proportional reduction in the budget for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office — most of which is paid by the city.


“The hardest is the world dropping you when you’re 18”
Most young adults can count on some parental support as they head off to college or vocational school. But for Louisiana children in foster care, turning 18 has long meant being cut off from the foster parents who supported them through high school. Senate Bill 109, recently signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, extends the age of foster care to 21 for youths who go to college or vocational school, or  who are working at least 80 hours a month. That expands on a law passed last year that extends the program to anyone who was in high school or working towards a GED. Donica Carter, a former Louisiana foster child, couldn’t be at the signing ceremony but shared her journey within foster care system with Kathy Reckdahl, writing for Youth Today:

Five years ago, in compliance with what was then Louisiana law, Carter had “aged out” of the state’s foster-care system. For some children, aging out meant that a caseworker dropped them off at the home of a friend or a relative or at a youth facility like Covenant House. For Carter, it meant that her foster mom dropped her off at her 18-year-old boyfriend’s house. “The thing is, his mom wouldn’t let me stay,” she said. “So I couch surfed. It was not my plan for myself. I had no money, no job, no family and seemingly no way forward.” “The transition into adulthood isn’t easy for anybody, but just imagine what foster youth have had to endure by the time they reach 18,” state Sen. Regina Barrow, the bill’s author, said on Thursday. “They continue to need someone in their corner. And that’s what this is about.”


Many workers aren’t taking paid leave
Paid leave policies allow people time away from work to take care of newborn children or recuperate from an illness. But a new study shows that few workers use their allotted leave. So what’s stopping them? Many report that a fear of retaliation and negative implications for career advancement lead many to stay at work rather than taking advantage of a benefit that does lasting good for them and their families. Fast Company’s Maurie Backman has more:  

Under the FMLA (which provides unpaid leave), employees who take leave to care for a child are guaranteed to be able to return to an equivalent job with the same salary they were used to. But employers do not have to hold specific jobs open while workers take leave, as long as they follow this rule. Therefore, in theory, if you are a marketing manager, you could take 12 weeks off following the birth of a child and come back to find that you are now an operations manager–a similar title, but not necessarily the same role. Taking time off for parental leave can be especially challenging for men due to the pressure or stigma involved. Since men aren’t forced to contend with the physical implications of childbirth, many employers set high expectations for them to be back on the job almost immediately. In fact, 76% of fathers take one week off or less following the birth or adoption of a child, according to a study by the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

You can read LBP’s report by Taly Bailostocki on building a paid leave program in Louisiana here.


Studying hard doesn’t overcome inequality
Students are often taught that if the work hard and study in school they will overcome many of the obstacles they face in life. However, a new study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce examines why equally talented students don’t always have an equal chance to succeed (hint: it’s wealth inequality). Education can be a tool to mitigate tough circumstances students face, but policy makers must add the tools and resources to make that a reality. Big Think’s Robby Berman has more on the report:

“Stunningly, a child from the bottom quartile of socioeconomic status who has high test scores in kindergarten has only a 3 in 10 chance of having a college education and a good entry-level job as a young adult, compared to a 7 in 10 chance for a child in the top quartile of socioeconomic status who has low test scores,” says the study. Even for brighter children from poorer families who start out strong, “the chances of keeping those high scores are relatively slim.” Fortunately, the fact that a child’s test scores are likely to change over time suggests an upside: An opportunity for intervention with additional support. As Carnevale says, “When we follow these kids over all those years, grade by grade, what we find out is they all stumble. The difference is between who stumbles and gets back up again and who stumbles and doesn’t.” Children of wealthy families typically enjoy a softer landing when they fall, since any help they need is within their families’ economic reach.


Number of the Day
12 – Number of days that Louisiana state government could operate on money in its rainy-day fund. (Source: Pew Trusts)