The unequal treatment of pretrial detention

The unequal treatment of pretrial detention

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

It’s an unfortunate truth that, more often than not, the impacts of pretrial detentions disproportionately impact people of color in Massachusetts just as it does the rest of the United States. This is according to new research, which suggests that bail amounts are generally higher for most non-white demographics.

On top of this, new studies find that there is a general sense that people of color present an added danger to others when they are given bail hearings. Hispanic defendants are also unfairly treated with pretrial detentions – it just doesn’t happen as often to white people, which means every other group is paying the price. And for these minorities, it may also mean the imposition of additional financial conditions that they would not have had were they being treated the same as white defendants.

Minorities and those in low-income demographics are the ones who bear the brunt of this unfortunate trend. Over half of the individuals in criminal defense cases end up being detained before standing trial merely for the reason that they’re financially unable to post bail. One recent study put the number upwards of 60%.

Rising bail with rising prices

For felonies, the national average bail amount is $10,000. This average bail amount in the U.S. has continued to go up, comparable to how the cost of living gradually rises over time. This has led to more people being detained before they make it to trial, even while the number of people being convicted and sentenced has actually gone down.

There are very real consequences of being detained before a trial. It may result in losing your job, suffering housing insecurity, and it may spark familial issues that wouldn’t have otherwise developed.

In many cases, it’s this pretrial detention that ends up driving an offender to engage in more criminal acts. The most recent data also calls into question whether detaining individuals before a trial actually makes the public any safer or not, and this longstanding practice is finally being called into question. Unfortunately for those being unfairly detained, it’s unclear what the future will hold.

It’s never easy to defend yourself in court, and it’s made all the more challenging when you can’t post bail. Pretrial detention sadly has disparate impacts on minority groups, and they have to work even harder to successfully navigate their case.