Why Cash Bail Is Unjust and Must Be Eliminated

This week, Maggie sits down with Civil Rights Corps attorney, Katherine Hubbard, to talk about why cash bail is unjust and why we should fight to eliminate it.

This is an important episode all about the history of cash bail, why it’s unjust, how it harms communities and punishes the poor, and what we can do to get rid of it.

Alternatives to Cash Bail:

  • Pre-trial services agencies

  • Unsecured bond

  • Court reminder systems

  • Childcare

  • Transportation to court

How to Advocate to End Cash Bail:

  • Donate to your local bail fund(s)

  • Become a court watcher

    • Find a court watching organization in your town
  • Contact your elected officials and tell them to support ending money bail

    • This legislation was introduced by Bernie Sanders

    • Find out what is happening in your community

  • Vote for candidates who support abolishing cash bail

Related Links:

Katherine Hubbard is a Senior Attorney at Civil Rights Corps, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the American legal system. She is a founding member of the CRC staff. Her work focuses on litigation challenging the criminalization of poverty, particularly debtor’s prisons and wealth-based pretrial detention. Katherine coordinates CRC’s bail reform efforts in several states across the country including California, where her work in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Defender resulted in the landmark *Humphrey *decision, which struck down the pervasive practice in California’s courts of setting money bail pursuant to a schedule without consideration of an individual’s ability to pay. Katherine has also successfully litigated several cases against Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department for executing illegal search warrants, resulting in damage awards totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for her clients.


Maggie Germano 0:05
Welcome to the money circle podcast, a safe space where women can learn about and better understand money so that they can take control of their finances and create a better financial future for themselves and their families. there and thanks for listening. I’m your host, Maggie Germano, and today I’m talking with Katherine Hubbard, and attorney at the civil rights core, which is an organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the American legal system. In this episode, we talk about why cash bail is such an unfair and unjust mainstay in our legal system. Katherine also details the alternatives to cash bail, and tells us how we all can fight to make the system more equitable and less harmful for everyone. Okay, welcome. Katherine, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you for having me. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and the work that you do.

Katherine Hubbard 1:01
Yeah. My name is Katherine Hubbard, and I’m an attorney at civil rights corps. And I litigate cases focused on criminal system reform, particularly on ending money bail.

Maggie Germano 1:13
I love that. And so what drew you to that? You know, you said you’re an attorney, but what brought you specifically to this type of law?

Katherine Hubbard 1:23
So when I was in law school, I participated in the criminal defense clinic where I represented people charged with misdemeanor offenses in state court proceedings. And one of the first experiences I had a huge impact on me was representing a man charged with driving on a suspended license. And his license had been suspended because he hadn’t been able to pay court fines from a previous case. But he couldn’t get to his job without driving. And obviously, without his job, he wouldn’t have been able to earn money to pay off the fines. So he was in this terrible catch 20 To situation, and it was all because he was poor if he’d been able to pay the fines to begin with, his license never would have been suspended and he wouldn’t have been facing any criminal charges. So working on his case was my initiation into the many ways that the criminal legal system is unjust for people who are poor. And after law school, I moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and I was doing criminal appellate work down there. And while I was there, I met civil rights corps founder and executive director Alec care can sourness, and he had recently filed a case challenging Montgomery’s debtors prison, wherein the court would order people who couldn’t pay court debts owed to the city for traffic tickets to sit out their debts in jail at a rate of $50 per day. And I was hearing about the work he was doing And it sounded so interesting. And he mentioned that the next project he wanted to take on was challenging money bail. And despite having recognized many other shortcomings with our criminal system, I’d really never thought about bail was something I was obviously aware of. But I’d never thought about why it might be problematic. So I asked him to tell me more about it. And he said, Well, every day courts around the country, people who’ve been charged with crimes but are presumptively innocent, or being told that if they pay some amount of money, they can be released free trial. So people who have that money can purchase their freedom and fight their cases from their homes. And people who can’t pay are forced to remain in jail until their cases resolved. So at that moment, it really clicked for me that of course that’s unjust and unconstitutional. And I know knew I wanted to get to work on challenging that.

Maggie Germano 4:04
That’s great. So it sounds like you, you know, you’ve seen a lot of the different angles of how the money aspect in the criminal justice system is so unjust. And I bet a lot of people would be surprised when they hear the word debtors prison, because that seems like something from a movie or something that like wouldn’t exist in the United States. But it sounds like not the recently you were dealing with that. So yeah, tell, can you tell me a little bit more about like, that experience and how you’ve seen that impact people?

Katherine Hubbard 4:43
Yeah, it sounds like something from centuries ago, but they’re absolutely modern debtors prisons in the United States right now. People who can’t pay court fines court fees are jailed simply because of non payment. And courts are often not making any finding that the non payment was willful, meaning that the person had the money and just refused to pay. Most of the time, it’s people who really can’t payand are sent to jail because of that.

Maggie Germano 5:21
Yeah, and that’s something I also very recently became aware of when I heard about a young It was a teenager and Rikers for I think it was three years for a stolen backpack, because he couldn’t he and his family couldn’t afford to pay the bail. And he ended up taking his life later on after that experience, and it’s just like that was hearing that story. I was like, Oh, my God, like he hadn’t even had a trial. He just couldn’t afford to pay the bow and like, how many people are still in jail? Because just because they couldn’t afford the bail, when they haven’t been found guilty of anything.

Katherine Hubbard 5:56
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That’s the story of Kalief Browder It is one that I think introduced a lot of people to the injustice of money pail just the absolute tragedy of a teenager being in jail for three years just because his family couldn’t afford to pay bail. And that situation ultimately, resulting in the end of his life. It’s just such a clear example of why the system needs to change.

Maggie Germano 6:28
I totally agree. And can you tell us a little bit about the history of cash bail and our society because I think like for me, I’ve historically watched a lot of like crime procedurals, and I just have felt like, that’s just how it is like, like cash belt, like you just take it kind of at face value because that’s what the system is like. And then I’ve started hearing about like, other places like DC and, and some places who don’t have a cash bail system really in place. So yeah, so can you tell us a little bit of like, The history of that and how that kind of got started.

Katherine Hubbard 7:04
Sure. So the word bail really just means release before trial. But what most people have come to associate that word with today is money bail. And money bail is the practice of requiring someone who’s been charged with a crime to forfeit money if they do not appear for their court appearances or for their trial. And money bail can be either secured or unsecured. If it’s unsecured, then the defendant can be released right away on a promise to pay some amount of money if they don’t make their court appearances in the future. What courts usually impose is secured money bail, which requires people to put up the money to begin with before they can be really Least and then that will be forfeited if they don’t make their court appearances. So that’s what money bail is like today. But that’s not really historically how it’s worked. Bail has existed since before the Magna Carta. It’s got a very long history, and it’s been in the United States since its founding. And now, most states protect the right to bail by sufficient treaties except in capital offenses. And the idea when the states were forming and creating their constitutional bail provisions, really was that bail was meant to be an individualized inquiry into what amount was necessary to create this incentive for the person to make their court appearances and their trial. It operated that way for a long time. But unfortunately, jurisdictions across America began to depart from this original understanding of how bail works in the middle of the 20th century, and began to routinely set bail without regard to an individual’s ability to pay until results of this new status quo, worried that people who were potentially dangerous could be released simply because they could pay some arbitrary amount of money. And a lot of people were being locked up simply because they couldn’t pay even though they could have safely been released. And there was a backlash and a movement for reform in the 1960s. And that reform movement which was led by Robert Kennedy resulted in In substantial reforms to the practice of money bail in the federal court system. In the federal courts, there’s actually a provision that says that courts can’t just set an amount of money that’s going to detain a person. And then also in DC a little later in the 1990s, there was a big push for reform. And that reform completely eliminated money bail in DC. So judges in DC, they still could impose money bail, but in practice, they never do. And DC has like a robust pretrial services agency. And, and, you know, just it’s pretty much the only jurisdiction outside of the federal courts. In in the US today where no one’s sitting in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay money bail. So that, you know, leads up to today, I think we’re in the midst of another big push for reform. And we’re seeing that around the country seeing substantial reforms in states like New Jersey, which is really exciting, but there’s definitely a lot more work to be done.

Maggie Germano 11:21
Yeah, it sounds like, especially if most states, if not all of them right now have a money bail system. You know, at least there is some encouragement around like DC was able to do it, the federal government was able to put in some reforms. And so it’s not impossible, like pushing for these kinds of reforms is possible and things can change.

Katherine Hubbard 11:46
Yeah, absolutely.

Maggie Germano 11:48
And so, how I’m sure this differs by jurisdiction and by state, but how our bail amounts typically set like are there guidelines or rules along With that?

Katherine Hubbard 12:02
yes, many jurisdictions around the country use bail schedules, which is basically just a list of offenses or types of offenses with a money amount next to it, and judges kind of rote Li apply the schedule. Look at the charges the person is facing, look at the number next to that and say, okay, your bond is $10,000. Not all jurisdictions use bail schedules. But even in jurisdictions that don’t. The pervasive practice right now is for judges to kind of pick a number out of the air and apply that without making any inquiry into the person’s ability to pay without deciding whether the person even needs to be detained pre trial and without considering non monetary alternatives that could Meet the government’s interest in court appearance and public safety.

Maggie Germano 13:06
Right? Because you would think that if you are trying to keep someone detained, that that would have to do with like public safety as as the main reason, right, like stealing a backpack is not a threat to public safety. Nobody is going to get hurt by that. So even having bail put into place for that it feels just punitive instead of actually for a good reason.

Katherine Hubbard 13:34
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, what judges need to be doing is making this decision, does this person in front of me actually need to be detained free trial, and the vast majority of people don’t. And once the judge makes that decision, you know, if they think the person should be released, then they need to either set money bail and an amount the person can afford, or even better not set money bail at all, and use non financial conditions of release to encourage court appearance and protect public safety. And then, of course, in those cases where they do believe the person needs to be detained, they need to make sure to set conditions of release that will actually detain the person. So you don’t have situations like Raptors, you know, he was accused of murder and I think many people would say posed a public safety risk, but you know, he was a millionaire, he was able to pay this extremely high bail and then fled the jurisdiction. So courts need to be making much more intentional decisions about whether people truly need to be detained pretrial.

Maggie Germano 14:53
That makes sense to me, and what are some of those other things to put in place To encourage and and require people to show up for their court dates, what are some of those non financial related incentives?

Katherine Hubbard 15:10
So one of the most effective interventions that encourage court appearance and can have positive effects on defendants lives if done right, or pretrial services agencies. And these are agencies that are tasked with providing support to people pre trial. They can provide targeted intervention programs and supervision that can be tailored to fit a defendant’s needs, including regular check ins or court reminders, or even things like drug rehabilitation programs. So I mentioned that Washington DC has a really great pretrial services agency. And that agency regularly reports Appearance rates above 90% and extremely high rates of people who are who are with the agency not being re arrested for any new offenses, particularly not being arrested for not for any violent offenses. So pretrial services agencies are a very effective way of getting people back to court and protecting public safety. Another possibility is using unsecured bond. That’s where the person makes a promise to appear and is potentially on the hook for some amount of money if they don’t appear. Studies have shown that unsecured bond is as effective or more effective than secured bond. So that’s an alternative that allows people to get out right away and doesn’t leave people sitting in jail just because they can’t get this amount of money together. One of the other most effective interventions that courts can make are simple court reminder systems. In the vast majority of cases where people miss their court appearance, it’s not because they, you know, have fled the jurisdiction and moved down to prison Ville and are never coming back. They’re there, they’re in town, but either they’ve forgotten about their court date. Because, you know, they were just handed a slip of paper and told to come at a certain date and they lost the paper or something like that. Or because they couldn’t find childcare and couldn’t make it to their court appearance because of that or didn’t have the money to get public transportation to the courthouse. Things like that are really what are causing people to miss court dates. So a simple text message reminder system, you know, the day before your court appearance is an extremely In effective intervention and a very low cost, one that really improves appearance rates. And to address some of those other issues like child care and transportation, courts can take steps like providing child care at the courthouse, or providing rides to court or vouchers for transportation to court. And all these really get people into court without a huge expense to the court system and allow people to be free before their court dates.

Maggie Germano 18:41
Right, because again, these people haven’t gone through trial yet. They haven’t been found guilty. There has been no due process. So if there hasn’t been a violent crime, there isn’t risk to public safety. It doesn’t make sense to have people locked up while they’re waiting to go through their process.

Katherine Hubbard 19:01
Exactly, and it’s really detrimental to have people locked up. Prior to court. There are just dozens of studies showing that people who are in jail awaiting trial have significantly worse outcomes in their actual case disposition than people who are free pre trial. And that makes sense because people who are in jail are desperate to get out of jail. So they’re much more likely to take a plea, a worse plea than someone who’s not in jail would take. And then of course, there’s psychological effects on on judges that see a person you know, shackled, and in in jail uniforms in front of them, as opposed to seeing someone who’s You know, there with their family and wearing street clothes and, you know, showing themselves to still be a member of the community. So pretty crowded tension that really hurts people’s case outcomes. So it’s so important to have as many people released pre trial as possible.

Maggie Germano 20:11
Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense to me. And and I think part of what you were saying earlier, it sounds like a big piece of this is something that’s been coming up a lot in the public discourse right now with like, investing in services and investing in support for people. And so it sounds like, you know, giving, providing childcare, providing vouchers for transportation, even just reminders and the drug rehab that you mentioned, and things like that, like, those are services that people need, that when you don’t have that. It makes it a lot harder to be able to like adhere to the things that you need to do. And like if everybody wants the system to work better if everybody wants people to kind of, you know, get ready rehabilitated or whatever the kind of the goal is there needs to be more thought and investment and priority put on those support systems instead of just that, that punishment side.

Katherine Hubbard 21:13
Yeah, that’s exactly right. We should be setting people up to succeed, not making it difficult for them to, you know, go through this process of a trial.

Maggie Germano 21:26
Right. And like, I get text messages from my dentists reminding me when and if I missed that, it would just be like a $25 fee, as opposed to like having to go to jail, and definitely because I missed a court date. So that is, it’s just common sense.

Katherine Hubbard 21:42
Yeah, exactly. Yep. We have the technology. It’s not expensive. We should be using it, especially since it’s such an effective intervention.

Maggie Germano 21:53
Right? Especially Yeah, like if there’s, it shows there’s, and there’s proof that this works and that people Aren’t purposefully missing their court dates and willfully choosing to skip on this, they just they either forget or there are other issues in play.

Maggie Germano 22:12
Exactly. And so how does the bail bond industry kind of play into this system?

Katherine Hubbard 22:22
*sigh* The bail bond industry. so the bail bond industry plays a huge role in this system in most American states. It does not operate in some states, but the vast majority of states do you have a bail bond industry and and it’s a very lucrative industry because at this point, bail amounts have become so high in most places that people can’t actually afford to pay the court. And they’re there for going through bail bond agents to get out of jail. So Sort of the history of the bail bond industry is that as sweet in that, you know, earlier in the 20th century, as we started to see this kind of arbitrary amounts of bail and increasing amounts of bail. This industry popped up to provide a service, I suppose you would call it, of getting people out of jail.

Katherine Hubbard 23:31
And how commercial bail bonds work is that the judge assesses and amount of bail say $10,000. And if you can’t afford $10,000, then you can go to a bail bond agent and try to get released through that person. Usually, the bail agents charge a fee, or sorry, they always charge a fee. Usually, they charge a fee About 10%, but it can be more than that. And how it works is that they tell the court that they will put up the money for your bond. And they pocket the fee that you give them. And that fee is non refundable. Which I think is is really important to emphasize because a lot of people have this idea that bail is an amount of money that you’re putting up so that you’re on the hook for your court appearances, and it acts as an incentive to get you to court. But in the vast majority of cases where people are actually getting out through bail agents, that incentive isn’t there at all because the fee you pay to the bail bondsman is non refundable. So even if you take all your court appearances, you’re on your best behavior the whole time. You’re not getting any money back at the end of your once your case reaches a decision.

Katherine Hubbard 25:01
So another thing to note is that the bail Bond companies tend to hold themselves out as sort of these mom and pop small businesses, but in fact, they’re underwritten by huge insurance companies. And, and they’re a very powerful lobbying force, such that in many states, they don’t actually even put up the money that they promised to the court. They just have to say that they’ll pay it. And then in fact, they usually don’t have to pay it if the person fails to appear. Because in the vast majority of circumstances, you know, as I said, the person is in the jurisdiction, they haven’t really fled. So they’ll get picked up and arrested and the court will have that person to team for the rest. have their court date. And then the bail bond agent, you know, doesn’t have to pay because the person has been found. And, you know, they’re they don’t have to do any work either they, they just have collected that 10% fee and don’t really have to do anything else at that point.

Katherine Hubbard 26:21
And another thing I think is worth noting is that this bail bond industry is actually pretty remarkable. The US is one of only two countries on earth that make it legal to profit from paying bond for another person, the other country being the Philippines. So the US is is pretty anomalous in allowing this situation to exist. And it’s really a predatory industry that takes wealth out of communities that are often poor often communities of color and is transferring that money in today’s Hands of insurance companies.

Maggie Germano 27:05
Now I know why you took such a deep breath before I started saying that, because that’s infuriating. Especially what you were saying is that it’s underwritten by these large insurance companies and that they there, it sounds like they’re making a huge profit because they’re taking this 10% fee from individuals and then most often not having to pay the rest of that back to the court. So it’s just, it’s Yeah, it’s profiting off of people’s misfortune.

Katherine Hubbard 27:35

Maggie Germano 27:37
Are there do you have thoughts on like, how to change that system? I mean, I know that like, capitalism is like the perfect kind of setup to create this sort of system and and allow companies to profit from this, you know, the free market, whatever. Do you kind of do in your organization? Like, are you pushing to put limitations on the bail bond industry? What do you kind of think about that?

Katherine Hubbard 28:10
You know, I think probably the best way to combat the evils of the bail bond industry are just to get rid of money bail. And that’s really our focus. There are certainly things that could be done to better regulate the industry, and to hold them more accountable. But at the end of the day, if judges were doing what’s right, and just setting an amount the person could actually pay, you know, out of pocket without having to go through a bail bondsman. Or we’re imposing non financial conditions of release, then the industry would cease to exist. So that’s why we we focus Our efforts on getting rid of money bail, as opposed to fighting the bail bond industry.

Maggie Germano 29:08
That makes sense to me. I mean, it sounds like, like I mean, exactly what you just said, it’ll render them useless if there is no money bail, so why? Why focus on regulating them when we could just eliminate that system? Yeah. So you started touching on this a little bit, but can you tell us a little bit more about how cash bail hurts poor communities and communities of color?

Katherine Hubbard 29:34
Yeah, absolutely. So as we know, well, communities of color are very disproportionately policed, particularly poor communities of color. And as a result of this massive over policing, a lot of arrests come out of these communities. And so it’s for people and people of color, who are Most often standing there in front of the judge, as the judge is deciding what amount the person should have to pay to be released. And of course, poor people are also the people who are least able to pay these very high amounts that judges are setting. So the system, you know, brings a lot of poor people into it, and then doesn’t consider the fact that they can’t actually pay these crazy high bail amounts. And of course, people are desperate to get their loved ones out of jail, pretrial. And so often, you’ll have families scraping together the money to pay to a bail bondsman, which again, is money that they’ll never get back. It’s non refundable, but out of desperation, they’ll forego necessities to get their loved one out of jail. So the system really is just quite disastrous for poor communities and communities of color who are who are over policed, and then assessed to bail without any consideration of ability to pay.

Maggie Germano 31:23
And I would also guess that if a family couldn’t scrape together enough to even get, get some, not support, but get bail through a bail bondsman, if their family member is then in jail, pretrial, that’s also someone that’s not at home. That’s not helping care for the family or working and contributing to the family and just being there as part of their family and community. So that, I’m sure has long term Domino effects as well.

Katherine Hubbard 31:56
Yeah, and I’m so glad you mentioned that that’s a huge problem as well. Yeah, if the person is in jail, they obviously can’t work. They can’t take childcare responsibilities. You know, they can’t be with their family and with their community. So that hurts the family, it hurts the community. It leads to further poverty because of that lack of income. People can lose their children lose their homes, all because they can’t, you know, scrape together this arbitrary amount of money that the court has required.

Maggie Germano 32:34
Yeah, and I think like you were saying about judges like it, it needs to be I mean, to me, it sounds like it needs to be. I mean, obviously, the money bail system needs to be eliminated. But these the judges as individuals, they’re human people who are seeing what’s going on they should be also taking that responsibility to recognize the like I said, the domino effect. Have this system and how, how it just continues to hurt families. And I’m sure, even if they are able to scrape together the money if that’s like all the money they had, like you were saying giving up necessities and things like that, like, how long does that impact?

Katherine Hubbard 33:18
Yeah, yes, judges are absolutely accountable for many of the problems with the modern bail system. And one judge who we work with a lot, has been a judge here in DC for many years. And DC eliminated money bail back in the 90s. But up until then, he had been doing what other judges around the country now do all the time just, you know, requiring arbitrary amounts of money for people to get released and once the system switched He, you know, it was a revelation, it was immediately apparent that the system was unjust and also ineffective. And so now he travels around the country educating judges about these issues, which is so important, because, you know, I think most judges on the bench today have just always been in the system and have never really thought about why it’s wrong. But it definitely is and judges need to be cognizant of that.

Maggie Germano 34:37
And I bet it helps to hear it from appear to and not an activist that is kind of removed from the system.

Katherine Hubbard 34:44

Maggie Germano 34:46
So you mentioned some of the alternatives to cash bail, you know, being some of those pretrial services and reminders and things like that. Are there any other alternatives? We haven’t touched on that you advocate for.

Katherine Hubbard 35:05
So some other possibilities are that judges have a ton of discretion to impose conditions of release. And those conditions can be things like stay away orders or a requirement that the person not possess any weapons or a requirement to not see a certain person. That kind of order is really much more effective than money in terms of protecting public safety.

Katherine Hubbard 35:42
You know, money doesn’t have any effect on public safety whatsoever, especially since a person who does post bail actually doesn’t forfeit that if they are charged with another crime. So money bail really has absolutely no relation to public Like safety whatsoever, whereas these non monetary alternatives that the court can order actually can have a real effect at protecting public safety.

Maggie Germano 36:14
That makes sense. And I would assume that that’s kind of what the judges and the system should be hoping for anyway.

Katherine Hubbard 36:22
Right, exactly.

Maggie Germano 36:24
So what are some of the things that civil rights Corps is doing to advocate for ending cash bail?

Katherine Hubbard 36:34
So civil rights corps kind of bread and butter is inadequate education. So we are in courthouses all around the country, challenging the use of money bail. And we do that in both state and federal court. But the the focus of our case is on these issues that arise from the 14th amendment due process clause and Equal Protection Clause. And our argument is that it’s unconstitutional to keep someone in jail just because they can’t afford an arbitrary amount of money. And if the court wants to detain a person pre trial and deprive them of their fundamental right to liberty, then they have to make the findings that that detention is actually the least restrictive thing they can do to protect the government’s interests in public safety and court appearance. So, you know, we’ve filed lawsuits against dozens of jurisdictions that are setting money bail in the ways that I’ve described without doing these individualized inquiries, and have had a lot of success with these cases and have sparked a lot of change, but there’s a Certainly a lot more to be done. We also engage in policy work advocating for bail reform in both the US Congress and on a state basis. So, yeah, we’re out there filing lawsuits and advocating for change around the country.

Maggie Germano 38:24
That’s great. And it sounds like that probably takes a lot of work going through lawsuits being in the courtrooms and doing a lot of that push for policy change. So I speak for myself and probably others and thanking you for doing that work.

Katherine Hubbard 38:41
You’re welcome. Happy to. It’s it’s very valuable and satisfying work so I feel lucky to get to do it.

Maggie Germano 38:51
Great. And what can individuals be doing, folks listening now, what can we be doing to be advocating to end the system.

Katherine Hubbard 39:05
So one thing that’s really important, especially right now that people can be doing is donating to bail funds. So look up, whether there’s a bail fund in your community and if there is donated, donate to it. If there’s not one in your community, find it other community you care about, and donate to their bill fund. These funds, pay bail for people who can’t afford it. And then once the person has, once the person’s case reaches a disposition, that money is then returned to the bail fund and can be used to build someone else out. And, of course, bail funds don’t address this underlying problem, that money shouldn’t be used at all. But they’re a very important sort of stopgap stopgap measure while we try to change These these underlying issues. And they’re especially important right now because even in the best of times, jails are dangerous places. There’s an increased risk of death. Death in general in jails, particularly death by suicide. They are unclean, they put people at risk for sexual violence. They’re not good places to be for many reasons, but especially right now as we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and these congregate environments where people are coming in and out all the time, and are enclosed together in very small spaces. jails are really a deathtrap at the moment. So it’s so important to be getting as many people out of jails right now as possible. So funds are a great way to help people out in a really dangerous time. In terms of more systemic steps people can take one of the best things people can do is go watch court. Court watching is this movement that sends people into courtrooms to document unfair practices such as bail being set without inquiry into ability to pay. And by observing court and publicizing findings of unfair practices, court watchers can hold judges and district attorneys accountable when they’re setting bail unjustly. So I would suggest looking to see if there’s a court watching organization in your city and if there’s not look into starting one and then also contact local state federal officials yo support legislation reforming money bail. There’s some federal legislation that’s been proposed by Bernie Sanders. There’s various state level movements at reform. So definitely look into what is going on in your community and an advocate for ending money bail. And then the last thing to do is vote for candidates who support abolishing Money, Money bail.

Maggie Germano 42:33
Thank you, those are all really helpful and actionable things that people can do and I know I hadn’t heard of court watching organization so that’s really interesting. And yeah, cuz then like you’re literally they’re seeing what’s going on and like you said, publicizing and and putting pressure on the people that are part of the system.

Katherine Hubbard 42:55
Yeah, yeah. It’s a very valuable thing. I think so So few people have a good understanding of what actually goes on in courtrooms. I had never seen court until I was in law school. And one of our assignments was to go watch court. And I was just shocked. I had no idea it was it was gonna be the way it was. It was just this awful assembly line of, you know, poor people shackled in jail uniforms being brought before a judge and the judge just, you know, within a couple, maybe 30 seconds, assigning a bail amount and moving on to the next person. So I think it’s, it’s really valuable for people to see that and understand what our system actually looks like. And I think if people do that, it will inspire you to want to make change

Maggie Germano 43:59
that makes sense to me, I mean, I’m sure it’s very different from what we see on TV.

Katherine Hubbard 44:06
It is.

Maggie Germano 44:08
And I like what you were saying about getting involved in your local community because I think when people think about advocating and lobbying we think kind of at that congressional level at that federal level and it can feel really impossible to make change and affect change in that way. But with our local governments and like so I live right outside dc in Maryland and I live in this tiny little town that I feel like if I went to the town hall meetings and like made a stink I would be much more effective in the bat space than I might be at a broader level. But it matters what’s going on in your individual communities to so I think it’s important to encourage people to see what they can do in their their communities because they can there’s less people in the small in not even small communities but like cities, Ward’s, and you can make more of an impact and that can reverberate for the people in your community.

Katherine Hubbard 45:07
Yes, absolutely. Just to give an example of how people really can affect change on a local level. We filed a lawsuit years ago in Harris County, Texas, which is where Houston is. And that was a case challenging money bail is unconstitutional. And the defendants in the case who were judges in the court follow fought us tooth and nail, saying that, you know, people actually want to be in jail, on cold nights and all these really wild statements about why they shouldn’t have to consider a person’s ability to pay before setting bail and, and this was just a misdemeanor case. This was all People charged with misdemeanor offenses that they were refusing to give this constitutional process that we said was required. So then in the 2018 elections, a bunch of the judges who had been fighting the lawsuit most vigorously got kicked out of office and replaced by much more progressive candidates who campaigned on this issue of money bail, and saying that they would not oppose the lawsuit. And, you know, with that one election, the landscape of our lawsuit completely changed. And the the judges wanted to work with us and we were able to settle the case and put in place a new system in Houston that is much more just and just so much better than the old system. So you know, the the voters of Harris County made that happen. So you can absolutely make a big change in your community if you get involved.

Maggie Germano 47:08
That’s a great example. I love to hear that, especially being in Texas and being a bigger city like seeing that that was something that was possible.

Katherine Hubbard 47:19
Mm hmm. Yeah. It’s awesome.

Maggie Germano 47:21
And how can people follow along with the work that you’re doing and the work that the civil rights Corps is doing?

Katherine Hubbard 47:27
So you can find our work on our website civilrightscorps.org. corps as in Peace Corps Corps. We are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, at civil rights corps. So you can follow all of our work on social media as well.

Maggie Germano 47:49
Great, and do you guys have a newsletter or anything that helps people really stay kind of tuned in or should it should we be following along on mostly on social media?

Katherine Hubbard 48:01
If you go to our website, you can sign up for our mailing list and get periodic blasts from us about our work and about things you can be doing to support us. And just generally ways to support reforming the criminal legal system.

Maggie Germano 48:18
Great. And I will share all of that in the show notes too, so people have easy access to that. Thank you so much for being here today. I learned a ton in this conversation. So I really appreciate you taking the time to share.

Katherine Hubbard 48:31
Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.

Maggie Germano 48:38
Thank you so much for listening again this week. Don’t forget to rate review and subscribe in your podcasting app so that more people hear about the money circle podcast and listen. If you’d like to get more connected with money circle or with me, there are lots of ways you can do that. To join the free Facebook group, visit facebook.com slash groups slash money circle group to stay informed about Upcoming Events, subscribe to my weekly newsletter at Maggie Germano comm slash subscribe to sign up to attend the next money circle meetup visit Maggie germano.com slash money circle. To learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings or just to read my blog visit Maggie germano.com You can also follow me on instagram and twitter at Maggie Germano. Thanks for listening and have a great week.