It’s been nearly a year since a young man named Kalief Browder, aged 22, committed suicide. In 2010, he was arrested after being accused of a violent theft. For the rest of his life, he denied the claim that he was guilty. No strong evidence was ever presented to a court to back up the claim. The charges were eventually dropped. But between his arrest and the finding of his innocence, three years had passed. His family had been unable to pay the $3,500 bail set by the Bronx judge when he was arrested. As a result, he was made to wait in jail while preparations were made for the trial.
During the three years that Kalief was made to wait in jail, he suffered brutal violence at the hands of prison guards and fellow inmates. Two of those years were spent in solitary confinement. Once the charges were dropped and he was released, he went to college. But as a powerful and disturbing research paper he wrote on solitary confinement suggests, he continued to suffer trauma. The research paper can be read at http://www.huffingtonpost.com. On June 6, 2015, Kalief took his own life.
It’s easy to interpret this situation as a “this person was in jail because they were poor” situation. And you wouldn’t be wrong. If Kalief had come from a family that wasn’t poor, they would have been able to afford to get him out. He could have awaited the trial (or, in this case, the dropping of due to lack of evidence) while living at home and continuing his education. But because of his financial situation, the state decided it best to imprison him for three years without evidence.
It’s important to note that this took place in New York City. Different states will have different laws regarding official bail assistance. If you ever find yourself needing bail but don’t have the funds immediately, you shouldn’t take this story to mean you’re destined for prison. Bail assistance may be available to you from sites such as http://gotbailhi.com/.
Sadly, the Browder family were unable to take this option in their state. The only other way for Kalief to have escaped those three years in jail would have been to plead guilty to the charges. This, however, would have left a permanent mark on his criminal record. One that, as it turned out, he would not have deserved in the slightest.
The constitution is supposed to protect people from excessive bail amounts. And $3500 may not seem excessive when compared to, say, Michael Jackson’s £3m bail amount back in 2003. But Jackson’s bail amount was legally deemed excessive, despite the fact that he could pay it*. So if that was the case for Jackson, why wasn’t some degree of relativity taken into account for the Browder family?
As you probably know, or have guessed, this is not an isolated problem. Six out of ten people in your average American prison are awaiting trial there because they were unable to afford bail. Under legal definition, these people must be presumed innocent. Read more at http://www.truth-out.org/.
Working towards more widespread bail assistance and, ultimately, bail reform, is a must in the A American future.
* It should be noted here that Jackson’s amount was definitely excessive. Consider Phil Spector’s $1m bail amount that was set after he murdered Lana Clarkson.
Alice is a fashion writer who has many years of experience in the glamour industry. she writes as well as edits fashion industry gossips and news. She also analyses various fashion industry trends and gives tips to people regarding the style and attitude they should maintain. She has written about luxury goods, fashion statement as well as consumerism in various fashion websites. You can catch her through this blog and seek her help regarding your fashion queries.
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