By the Blouin News World staff

How the U.S. bail system exploits the poor

by in U.S..

(Source: Roy Luck/flickr)

(Source: Roy Luck/flickr)

This week, the Democratic presidential debate moved to Flint, Michigan. One of the questions asked of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton related to the United States’ growing inmate population. The U.S. currently incarcerates the largest number of inmates in the world. A portion of that population is made up of defendants awaiting trial in jails because they cannot pay the bails set by the court — translating into a bail system that disproportionately affects the poor. It is a system whose history is worth examining to understand how this problem has evolved.

The bail system has its roots in colonial English law as security in the form of money or property given to a court in exchange for the release of a person from legal custody. American colonies adopted the system, and as early as 1776, states began adding sections to their constitutions prohibiting “excessive bail.”…

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