From the ACLU:
Every day in Vermont we imprison people who have not been convicted of a crime simply because they are poor. It is the inevitable result of our cash bail system, where defendants must trade money for their freedom. We’ve been working with legislators on reform this legislative session. Now, we’re facing an effort by Vermont prosecutors and sheriffs to derail those reforms by instead setting setting a cap on bail that will be far out of reach for poor Vermonters.
The Vermont House passed a bail reform bill (H.728) earlier this session that eliminated money bail for low-level misdemeanors. This is a great first step towards making our system more fair and equitable. But the Vermont Department of State’s attorneys and sheriffs now want to amend the bill to leave money bail in place for these misdemeanors, and instead impose a cap of $1,000, an unaffordable amount for most low-income Vermonters that would render the reform meaningless.
In Vermont, around 400 people every day are incarcerated pre-trial, many because they cannot afford to pay bail. Even short stays in jail can have cascading effects. Defendants lose their jobs, their cars, their homes, and even custody of their children, without having been convicted of a crime. A $1,000 cap on bail would do nothing to reduce the number of people we lock up needlessly, at taxpayer expense.
A recent ACLU poll showed that 89 percent of voters say it is very important for prosecutors to actively work towards ending mass incarceration—at least some of Vermont’s state’s attorneys clearly haven’t heard that message, but it’s not too late to make sure our senators do.
We need your help to make sure that Vermonters receive the same justice regardless of their ability to pay. Tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that Vermonters demand meaningful bail reform.