Selling Off Our Freedom: How Insurance Corporations Have Taken Over Our Bail System

Document Date: May 5, 2017

Selling Off Our Freedom: How Insurance Corporations Have Taken Over Our Bail System is a joint report by Color of Change and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice that documents how the for-profit bail industry fuels mass incarceration and perpetuates racial inequalities.

Every year in the United States, millions of people are forced to pay cash bail after their arrest or face incarceration before trial. This is despite the fact that they are presumed innocent and have not been convicted of a crime. To avoid being locked up while their cases go through the courts—which can sometimes take months or even years—people who cannot afford bail must pay a non-refundable fee to a for-profit bail bonds company to front the required bail amount. The financial burden of this fee harms individuals, it harms families, and it disproportionately affects Black and low-income communities. The only winner is the bottom line of big for-profit businesses. These harms are perpetuated by the large insurance corporations that control the two-billion dollar for-profit bail bonds industry, which is both unaccountable to the justice system and unnecessary to justice itself. Large companies whose only goal is profit should not be the gatekeepers of pretrial detention and release. The for-profit bail system in the United States fuels mass incarceration and contributes to racial and economic inequalities. It is a destructive force that undermines the rights of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system, and it must be abolished.

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