Dallas County Judges Ordered to Find Alternatives to Cash Bail

A federal court has ordered Judges and Magistrates in Dallas County not to set bail on certain felony and misdemeanor charges, without taking into consideration the defendant's ability to come up with that bond money, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Its the latest in an attempt by civil rights groups to bring an end to the concept of 'cash bail,' where a person is required to post a sum of money as security that  they will appear in court.

Activists like Elizabeth Rossi, the lawyer who argued the case for the Civil Rights Corps say that leads to a 'two tier' system of justice, where wealthy defendants can walk free while low income defendants have to stay in jail, sometimes for years, while their cases make it through the courts.

"Essentially what the federal judge found is that there is 'irreparable harm,' meaning there are people who are in the county jail every day whose rights are being violated.'

She argued that there are more effective ways of assuring that a defendant will appear for trials than simply ordering all defendants to post the same amount of bail, which is frequently set not by the person's ability to pay but by the nature of the crime.

It has been estimated that as many as two thirds of all inmates in Texas county jails are there not because they have been convicted of a crime, but because they can't post bail. 

That leads to jail overcrowding, jail suicides, and jails being required to make arrangements to hour prisoners for years at a time, something county jails are not set up to do.The federal court did allow the courts to set blanket bail for more serious and violent offenses.

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