Dallas County Violates People’s Rights by Keeping Them in Jail for Being Poor

Shannon Daves is a 47-year-old transgender woman who has been homeless in Dallas County, Texas, since last August. On January 17, she was arrested for an alleged misdemeanor and taken to the county jail. Hours later, she was brought before a judge who told her she could go home — but only if she paid $500 bail. She could not afford that amount, so she had to go back to jail.

Shannon is a victim of Dallas County’s money bail system, which uses wealth to decide who stays locked up. That’s illegal. The constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process prohibit people from being jailed simply because they cannot afford a monetary payment. But the judge did not even ask Shannon if she could afford her release, and instead followed Dallas County’s bail schedule, a document that automatically sets money bail amounts according to the charged offense.

The jail is transparent about the fact that it values money over civil rights. It maintains an ATM for people to get cash to post their bail. Shannon didn’t have the money, and because she is transgender, the county put her in solitary confinement. For days she was isolated in a cramped cell 24 hours a day and denied contact with other people.

As Shannon told us, “I never know what time of day it is, or when meal time will be.” Tragically, her story is common throughout Texas and the nation.

On any given day, Texas county jails warehouse over 40,000 individuals who are awaiting trial. These people, who are presumed innocent and have not been convicted of a crime, comprise over 62 percent of the state’s total jail population. The story is worse in Dallas County, where pretrial arrestees account for 70 percent of the jail population. Many, like Shannon, are robbed of their freedom solely because they cannot afford money bail.

Beyond being illegal, using money bail to incarcerate has disastrous effects on an arrestee’s criminal case. It is an open secret that pretrial detention is a prosecutor’s most powerful bargaining tool. National research consistently shows that being jailed before trial increases your likelihood of conviction. In the Texas counties of Tarrant and Travis, each day of additional detention (up to 30 days) increased the likelihood of conviction by 2 percent. This phenomenon is driven largely by people who eventually break down and plead guilty to offenses that would have been dismissed had they been able to buy their release.

People jailed for even two to three days can lose their jobs, their homes, or custody of their children. Worse, because jails are often overcrowded and understaffed, prisoners face daily physical threats. Confronted by such dire realities inside and outside jail, many arrestees plead guilty simply to end their ordeals.

But their nightmare does not end at the jailhouse door. The traumas they suffer while detained make them more likely to be arrested upon release. Jailing does not keep us safe — it puts us at greater risk.

Knowing this, it’s clear why arrestees and their loved ones desperately scrape together money to pay bail. From this misery come the bail industry’s profits.

Agents typically charge a fee of 10 percent of the total bail amount. The fee is nonrefundable, even if you make every court date. Bail agents frequently entrap clients who can’t pay the full fee in installment plans, beginning a predatory cycle of debt that often outlives the criminal case. The one-sided agreements allow agents to re-arrest a defendant who falls behind on payment for any reason, with the court’s blessing.

Dallas County’s system of detention based on wealth is unconstitutional and inhumane. And Dallas County officials know it. They have been discussing the need for reform for years. Their time is up. The ACLU, the ACLU of Texas, Civil Rights Corps, and the Texas Fair Defense Project have sued Dallas County’s judges and sheriff for jailing people like Shannon, who cannot simply walk to an ATM machine and buy their freedom. Dallas County must end its addiction to money bail, and ensure that no one’s liberty depends on their wealth.

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Anonymous

Stop breaking the law assholes!

Ranger Rick

That's the rub, stupid people can't help being stupid over and over again.

Anonymous

These people haven't actually been convicted of a crime. You're innocent until proven guilty.

Theresa

It's and fully spread epidemic across the country.

Faith

Our judicial system stinks. These private jails stink. God says beware of the doctors and the lawyers. There are laws, and we should abide the laws of the land. God says this too. I know that a lot of times, people are treated very unfair in our system. Solitary Confinement needs to be thrown out. It causes more harm than help. My heart hurts so bad for incarcerated people. My son has been in and out of jail for fifteen years now. It cost more to rehabilitate someone than to incarcerate them. They need a chance. There are some mean people in our judicial system. My son was beaten in his cell by 4 guards, then carried to solitary confinement and beaten again. Just because they didn't like him. I was actually told that. They don't like it because he actually has a family who loves him and stands by him. Even a common wealth attorney pointed that out to the court one time. I do know that my son needs to humble himself. But only through God can he do this. Everything is possible through our God and Savior of the World

Persecuted_Innocence

May I add some disturbingly SAD results that my research** has revealed from yet another 'Persecuted Innocent's' view :
Contrary to every child's school lessons: 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty' IS NOT a US Citizen's Right!
'Presumption of Innocence' Inside Court as a - Judicial Directive to a Jury - the UN's Human Rights Act ('80's?) affords it. OUTSIDE of Trial Court - it's a common misconception, more strictly it's a total farce.

Furthermore, since neither an Accused 'Innocent' or a 'Non-Accused, but one "involved in ongoing criminal litigation" as a co-household member' are NOT Of The 'PROTECTED CLASSES',
We must accept/face Legalized Discriminations:
Slander and Libel propigated with total disregard, Legally or Impact caused; Prohibitions obtaining independent shelter (Rent/Lease), Prohibitions obtaining employ; and Even Denied continued participation in subsidy programs For The Poor, or Re-establishing participation upon Defense Prevailing . (**Revealed by Background Checks )

Once an Impoverished (poor) Innocent is Accused, it's as if all Relative Legal Rights vanish, Literally.
Even, If or Once DEFENSE PREVAILS, forbidden is any chance of Recompense, Restoration, or Recovery due to inability to afford REQUIRED Counsel AND Impunity from Liability, even when they lie and deceive, Afforded the Badged ones & Court officers.
So the Supposed Right to 'Equal Access to Justice' Equally by the poor, vanishes too.
[Albeit given, a Public Defender is appointed for 'Defense' of Charges; though in our case not bereft of his own agenda (admittedly coinciding with prosecution's) other than sole Defense of Innocence.]

Still, there's no 'Equal Access to Justice' available for the Prevailing Innocents Recovery, Recompense,
OR EVEN just Re-establishing participation in programs for Disabled Fixed-Low Incomes, Poor. Enabling affordable independent Law Abiding Existence, dashing all we've left, Hope.
Let alone, any conceptual ideas of pursuing well earned charges of 'Malicious Prosecution' for Badges, Prosecutors, and Providers of Subpoena-ed Falsified Documents- Who all enjoy Impunity from Liability from their acts;
[just as the Badge's bragged about during their Vigilante style (So many 'Rights' unabashedly violated) during warrant issue.]

In AZ, It Seems whether Innocent or Not, it's the quota of arrests that gain rank promotions.
In our case, examples:
NEVER ONCE was the accused asked by any Legal Officer "How do you plead?" Nor was any other question posed to which 'Innocence' may have been declared;
During W-Issue brags of subsequent arrest were verbally Assured, as predetermined before any seized property was even found to contain incriminating evidences ;
Bribes were offered to obtain confession;
Stolen property denied (yeah real believable);
Attempts to access Bank Accounts, unrelated to investigation, denied in the face of proofs provided. (yeah real believable)

The poor are kicked to the curb, used for quota purposes and self-service kudos by those whose employ provides (not earned) badges for them to hide behind; from which clear unabashed brutality, bold braggadocios of Impunity from impacts, libels, or hardships their words, acts, and deeds cause to befall upon 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty' citizens are destructively weilded.

Stop_mod.day$lavery

The US has made a lot of money on keeping a certain class of people incarcerated. The cycle continues because there is no rehabilitation. The ones who make it out usually have a strong support system to lean on. Financially. Emotionally. They are able to provide rehabilitation for their loved one after their first major arrest. When someone has no one or one with little means the government and private prisons seize upon that as a money making opportunity. Working the farms or in shops for little pay here in the US. Yes, some people do deserve to be there forever. Like Larry Nassar. The 19 yr old who got popped for selling weed gets 15??? We should pay more attention to our elected officials. If the Republicans want to decrease the size of government control then Rehabilitation is a way to have a more crime free society, less need for social programs long term. It's like digging into a wound instead of cleaning it and letting it heal. Much love to you all!

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