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IU social policy center report blasts new state law that limits The Bail Project

IU Bloomington campus
Posted at 12:02 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 17:25:52-04

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana University social policy think-tank says a new state law that sets limits on The Bail Project will disproportionately impact minority groups and low-income people.

"The cash bail system disproportionately impacts the lives of Black and Latinx individuals with lasting consequences," IU's Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy said in a new policy brief released Tuesday. "Inequities in detention rates translate into disparities in conviction rates, courtroom debt and incarceration."

The new law requires charitable bail organizations to register with the Indiana Department of Insurance and sets new limits on who they can bail out.

They can still post bail for most people charged with misdemeanors or non-violent felonies under the new law, but they can no longer assist people accused of violent felonies or those who have ever been convicted of a violent felony.

Lawmakers who support the new law said it set up rules for charities in the same kind of way the state regulates the private bail industry.

In March as the new law was being debated in the Statehouse, David Gaspar, The Bail Project’s national director, told WRTV the proposal would create one system of justice for folks with money and another much harsher system for the poor.

David Gaspar.jpg
David Gaspar, The Bail Project’s national director.

“What the Bail Project is seeking to do is level that playing field,” Gaspar said. “We’re restoring that fundamental right; that constitutional guarantee to everyone … which is the presumption of innocence.”

The Bail Project says it has paid the bail for 980 people since 2018 when it first launched in Marion County.

But the group has come under scrutiny over the last year after three clients it helped make bail were later accused of committing violent crimes.

The new IU report notes that the new law favors the private bail industry by reducing the number of people The Bail Project and other charities can serve.

The report notes that private bond companies release little or no data.

The report cites information provided by The Bail Project saying it pays an average bond of $2,215. That's "equivalent (to) about two months' income for many Marion County residents," the report said.

In the report, researchers say the new law will mean people awaiting trial will spend more time in jail and could lead to more people becoming unemployed, homeless and losing custody of their children.

The report calls on policymakers to require private bail bond companies to be more transparent and to consider reducing or eliminating cash bail altogether.

"Since few jurisdictions have rigorously evaluated the bail reforms they have implemented, there is not a clear blueprint for what works," the researchers said in the report. "However, it is important to ensure that racial equity is embedded into all reform work across the criminal justice system to ensure a more fair and just system."

Earlier this month, the ACLU of Indiana sued the state to block the new law, calling it an "unconstitutional attack" that unfairly targets The Bail Project and hurts low-income Hoosiers.

Barring an injunction, the new law takes effect July 1.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc

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