“Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old New Yorker, was arrested on charges of stealing a backpack in 2010. To ensure he would show up for trial, and because of a previous offense, the judge set bail at $3,000. But his family could not afford to pay. So Mr. Browder was sent to jail on Rikers Island to await his day in court. He spent the next three years there before the charges were dismissed. Haunted by his experience, Mr. Browder hanged himself in 2015.
Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.
Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children — or their life.”