Tell Durham Judges: Stop Keeping People in Cages Because They Cannot Afford to Buy Their Freedom!
Most people sitting in the Durham County Jail are waiting to go to trial; they have been accused but have not yet been convicted of any crime. People who have money and are waiting to go to trial can buy their freedom by paying the bail set for them by a judge (even on murder charges), while hundreds of people in the Durham County Jail who can't afford bail must languish behind bars (even for victimless crimes, like trespassing). The system that creates this dividing line is known as money bail. The use of money bail is an unjust practice that fuels mass incarceration and disproportionately impacts Black communities. While Black people make up 38% of Durham County’s population, they make up over 75% of the Durham County Jail.
Those who do not have the means to pay must sit behind bars, while those who can pay are allowed to go free until the time of their court date. We have seen people in the Durham County Jail unable to buy their freedom for amounts as little as $150. The average stay in the Durham County Jail is over two weeks, but for many it can last much longer. Studies show that even just two or three days of incarceration causes significant disruption in people's lives, such as loss of their jobs, homes, and even children. This practice makes our communities weaker, not safer!
We, the undersigned, demand that Durham’s Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, Chief District Judge James Hill, and District Attorney Roger Echols work with people in our community who are impacted by money bail. We also demand that they work with social justice organizations and with the public defender’s office to revise the current bail schedule, which has not been revised in over EIGHT years, in order to ELIMINATE the use of money bail and pretrial detention. Anyone arrested for any charge should be released immediately on a written promise to appear in court, even those who are locked up for a previous failure to appear (FTA). This change would enable people awaiting trial to go to work, to care for their children, and to prepare for court at home with their families and in their communities. In the rare case that bail is denied by a judge, we demand that the judge’s reasoning be included in the court proceedings as a matter of public record.
Money shouldn’t determine anyone’s freedom, and we need to work to eliminate the use of money bail in our community.
Freedom is Our Birthright!