LOS ANGELES (CN) – Over 65,000 people were arrested and booked by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2017 and were levied over $3.6 billion in bail money, according to a study released Tuesday.
Using 2017 LAPD data on individuals booked between Jan 1 and Dec 31, the University of California, Los Angeles report – called “The Price of Freedom: Bail in the City of Los Angeles” – provides insight into the scale and impact of the money bail system in one of the largest criminal legal systems in the country.
In California, adults facing criminal charges are guaranteed the right to freedom before trial, except in a few cases. One way to secure freedom is to pay bail.
Most residents either cannot or did not pay for release prior to arraignment, the report said. Instead, they remained in custody without being convicted of a crime.
At a May 10 press conference before the report was released, UCLA researcher Kelly Lytle Hernandez said LAPD data analyzed in the report “unmasks the financial toll” for pretrial release on black and Latino communities, which tend to be disproportionately low-income.
Latino, black and homeless residents paid the majority of the $3.6 billion, largely through non-refundable deposits for bail bonds, according to the report.
Latino residents paid $19.6 million in non-refundable bail bond deposits while black residents paid $10.2 million, according to the report.
“What we are seeing is asset-stripping of black and brown, poor communities in LA through the money bail system,” Hernandez said.
UCLA’s previous report, covering LAPD data between 2012 and 2016, found that over $20 billion in bail money had been levied on residents.
Patrisse Cullors, an activist with Justice LA, said that money “should have been spent on drug treatment and mental health programs” in communities.
The current bail system “traps black people” and creates conditions where poor people are “languishing inside of prison” due to their inability to afford bail, Cullors said.
Of the total 2017 bail, $517 million was set on homeless individuals.
Of those who did bond out, 0.1 percent of individuals paid their bail in cash while 99 percent contracted with a bail bond agent.
The report said those who used a bail bond agent paid an estimated $40 million in non-refundable bail bond deposits.
The largest amounts of bail were paid by residents of Los Angeles Council District Eight and District Nine.
In a statement to Courthouse News Service, Los Angeles City Council Member Marqueece Harris-Dawson said he is in full support of bail reform and ending cash bail.
“Last year alone in my district, residents paid over $3.5 million in bail deposits, 60 percent of which is by African-Americans,” Harris-Dawson said. “This is especially important for poor and working people whose most important asset is their family home.”
Calls requesting comment from Council Member Curren Price, Ninth District, were not returned by press time.
Additionally, $7.8 million was paid on behalf of women in exchange for their pretrial release, the report said.
A 2017 Prison Policy Initiative report said 60 percent of women in jail have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial.
The same report found that more than 80 percent of women in jails are mothers. Most of them are only accused of crimes, not convicted.
A group called National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day is seeking to expose the impact of bail on low-income communities by raising funds in order to post bail for incarcerated mothers around the country.
Last week, Los Angeles resident Deshay Murphy was released from jail after her $30,000 bail was posted by the group.
Murphy, who is eight and a half months pregnant, was released from Los Angeles County’s Century Regional Detention Facility for women in Lynwood on May 8.
Murphy, who also has a 4-year-old daughter, had been incarcerated since April 13 when she was arrested following a family domestic dispute.
Pete White, executive director at Los Angeles Community Action Network, said the effort to post bond for Murphy’s release was rooted in the tradition of enslaved Africans purchasing each other’s freedom during and after the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day, which launched in May 2017, said it posts bail for incarcerated mothers in order to highlight the impact of “inhumane and destructive bail practices” on communities.
Their first effort raised enough to bail out 100 women.
Murphy’s public defender, Tiffiny Blacknell, said the current money bail system was “unfair” and in need of reform.
The “true cost” of the current bail system is the incarceration of poor people of color, White said.
Murphy’s case “illustrates the unjust impact of pretrial detention on black families,” especially mothers who feel extra pressure to return to their families, she said.
Hernandez, who, through a project called Million Dollar Hoods, researches the financial impact of policing on communities of color, said the report offers “a peek” at the total costs of the bail system to communities.
For example, LAPD data does not account for any additional charges assessed by bail bond agents. Also, LAPD data only captures the amount of bail levied and paid prior to seeing a judge for the first time, she said.
“The true cost of bail and the criminal legal system are not fully known,” she said.