Rep. Collins Takes On Arkansas’s Punishing Cash Bail System

No one in Arkansas should go to jail simply because they are too poor to afford their freedom. But as it stands right now, the state’s cash bail system is leading to unfair, expensive, and dangerous outcomes. That’s why Democratic state Representative Andrew Collins of Little Rock is tackling the issue head on, by filing the Bail Data and Transparency Act.

This is a critical first step to address the harmful effects of Arkansas’s current cash bail system. The legislation by the freshman Democratic lawmaker has bi-partisan support, former prosecutor Rep. Jimmy Gazaway of Paragould is a co-sponsor.

If Arkansans cannot afford bail, they can choose between bond or jail.

Meanwhile, wealthier suspects, accused of the same crime, can walk prior to their trial.

State lawmakers are working to make sure the cash bail system treats the rich and poor equally.

“There are two systems: one for people who have means, who can get out of jail, buy their way out and another system for people who don’t have means,” said St. Rep. Andrew Collins, D-Little Rock.” Read more from KARK/Fox16 >>>“People will simply take a deal to get out of jail even if they’re innocent,” Collins said. “If it’s just a matter of being poor, we give them the opportunity to find a better way rather than being locked up indefinitely.”

The bill added that the state spends about $100 million every year on pre-trial detention.” Read more from Jonesboro>>>

Failure to post bail means people stack up time in jail, often for minor offenses, at a high cost to the jail operators. Comprehensive reporting could, time, be the basis for reform.” Read more from the Arkansas Times >>>

Check out what Rep. Collins has to say >>>

“It can be reasonable and necessary to detain a person prior to trial if he or she is dangerous or a flight risk. But too often, we are jailing people simply because they are too poor to purchase their freedom. If a person can’t afford bail, he or she is forced to choose between an expensive bail bond or jail. Meanwhile, a person of means, accused of the same crime, can go free prior to trial.

That isn’t just unfair, it makes Arkansas less safe. Research shows that a person who spends even a short period in jail is more likely to commit a future crime. This makes sense, as jail presents physical and emotional trauma, financial destabilization, and damage to families.

Arkansas has overcrowded jails and prisons. We spend an estimated $100 million per year on pre-trial detention. Public safety is paramount and worth the cost, but jailing people who are not dangerous doesn’t serve public safety, it hurts it, and this cost is indefensible.

Other states are moving away from cash bail. As a start, Arkansas can address the data and transparency gap that obstructs reform. The Bail Data and Transparency Act would require monitoring and reporting of bail information, track individuals longitudinally through the criminal justice process, and require public transparency. The information gathered through this bill would help future reform efforts. And a watchful public eye would encourage participants in our bail system to adhere to fair practices.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and cash bail needs disinfecting. The Bail Data and Transparency Act is the first step toward a fairer, safer, and smarter approach to bail.”