From Bondage to Bail Bonds: Putting a Price on Freedom in New Orleans

Flozell Daniels, Jr. (Foundation for Louisiana) Benjamin Weber (Vera Institute of Justice) Jon Wool (Vera Institute of Justice)

Published: May 14, 2018

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How did the United States become the only common law country in the world to employ a system of commercial bail bonding? The earliest Louisiana Constitution provided a right to bail, understood as release on a promise to pay if one did not return to face charges…without having to pay up front. This brief describes bail across the city’s 300-year history and how it morphed to the present-day system of money bail. It then explains the processes and costs of modern money bail. Finally, it offers models from jurisdictions that have rejected money-based detention as inconsistent with the core principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Introduction

Bail in Louisiana was once a system that enforced a constitutional right to be free after arrest and before a determination of guilt or innocence. Over time, it has been transformed into a money bail system in which that freedom is conditioned on the ability to pay money up front. What was originally designed as a right to pretrial freedom has become a means of control and extracting money from people who are arrested, and jailing those who cannot pay.

Continue reading the full report [Download PDF]

Citations and sources can be found in the PDF copy of the report.

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