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Cash bail is about privilege, not community safety.

Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people and is walking around getting sponsorships.

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In 2010, Kalief Browder was arrested and eventually sent to Rikers Island for grand larceny. Robert Bautista called 911 and reported a robbery — two Black males had stolen his backpack that contained cash, a camera, and an iPod. Police said Browder fit the description and Bautista said Kalief was the robber, but police frisked Browder and he had nothing on him. Bautista said he was robbed two weeks ago (the date kept changing) and at one point said he wasn’t actually robbed, that it was just an attempted robbery. There were enough inconsistencies coupled with a lack of evidence that Browder most certainly would have been found not guilty at trial, but the police (in theory) can’t serve as judge and jury, so they arrested him, booked him, and threw him in jail.

The year before, Browder had pled guilty in a case where he was accused of stealing a bakery truck and crashing it into a vehicle. Browder said he was just a bystander, but took a plea deal to be sentenced as a minor as he had originally been charged as an adult. This charge meant Browder was on probation, so even though his family came up with the bail money to release him from Rikers while he awaited trial, the probation office blocked the request.

We have a kid who was afraid of going to trial as an adult and pled to a sentence as a minor for a non-violent crime he says he didn’t commit. Now he’s been accused of another non-violent crime he says he didn’t commit, and he’s being kept in jail, away from the public, because he’s a repeat offender who is a danger to society.

Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two people on video. He loaded up his gun and had his mom drive him across state lines so he could get in on the action during a protest and intimidate strangers with his illegal weapon. He ultimately shot three of those people after a confrontation and two of them died.

Which one of them is a danger to society? Someone who allegedly crashed a van and allegedly stole a backpack, or someone who is on video shooting three people as the result of a confrontation he initiated by not minding his business?

According to the justice system, Kalief Browder is the danger because Kyle Rittenhouse is walking around free as a bird.

Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged with killing two men during the Jacob Blake protests in Wisconsin this summer, made bail on Friday and walked out of jail, officials said.

MyPillow Inc. founder Mike Lindell and former “Silver Spoons” child actor Ricky Schroder played key roles in “putting us over the top” in coming up with $2 million for bail, according to Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Lin Wood.

(cont. NBC News)

Legally, bail is supposed to be determined by seriousness of the crime, ties to the community, the flight risk posed by the defendant, and the danger posed by the defendant to his or her community. Kyle Rittenhouse’s bail was $2 million as opposed to $10,000 because he murdered two people. However, in reality, the amount of bail set means nothing if it’s not pegged to the accused’s ability to raise that money. Bail for possession of a controlled substance is usually around $2,500 for a first offense. If you have no way to actually raise that money, it might as well be $2 million. There are no celebrities looking to donate to your cause when you’re in jail for carrying around cocaine you’d plan to take to a party. If you commit a murder for Amerikkka, people will raise money for you. If you get caught with cocaine on a night out, you may be stuck in jail for years.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called “What I’ve Learned as a Black Man” about some of the ways being Black in America has altered my path from that of a white person in this country. I want to pull a little piece out for this.

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I was walking along 125th Street one night when four policemen came out of nowhere and told me to put my hands up because I fit the description of a robbery suspect in the area. This was around the time Kalief Browder had committed suicide after being released from Rikers because he had been locked up for three years for the crime of fitting a description. I thought that would be me. One of the cops slammed me up against a wall face first, which is what saved me. I had been wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie, like this.

When he pushed my face into the wall, the cap was knocked off and my hair came tumbling out. I have a lot of hair.

The frisking stopped and one cop put their hands in my head to see if it was a wig that could be taken off. They were looking for a bald Black man and clearly that wasn’t me.

—————————————————————

I’ve been stopped and frisked by the NYPD five times over the past decade living here, but that was the first time I feared for my safety because there was nothing I personally could do to avoid being arrested. I could plead my innocence, but it wasn’t up to the cops to decide. I would be sent to jail, and as an underemployed Black man without a family living paycheck to paycheck in those days, I would have no way to raise any amount of bail.

I knew I was innocent, so I knew I wasn’t a threat to the community. I had no money, so I knew I wasn’t a flight risk. I knew that I was more afraid of the consequences of not showing up for my trial date than I was afraid of potentially being found guilty of something I didn’t do. But the system didn’t know that. The system would assign an arbitrary number as the price of my freedom, a number that I wouldn’t have been able to meet. I would have been sitting in jail, waiting for my case to go to trial. I would have lost my job because I couldn’t show up. I would have lost my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. After hopefully being found not-guilty, I would be sent back into the world homeless with no possessions, trying to start over, because I didn’t have the money to get me out of jail for a crime I didn’t commit.

And that’s the best case scenario with no money. If I was arrested today, there’s a decent chance I could die in jail, awaiting trial, after contracting coronavirus. Texas has more incarcerated coronavirus deaths than anywhere else in the country, and in the county jails, 80% of those deaths were people who haven’t been convicted of anything.

Over 230 people have died from Covid-19 in Texas’s correctional facilities — and in county jails, nearly 80 percent of them were in pretrial detention and hadn’t even been convicted of a crime, according to a new report.

The 231 figure is likely to be a conservative count. As the researchers note, TDCJ and county jails update death reports after autopsies are conducted, sometimes months after the fact. Additionally, many people have “died without ever having been tested for COVID,” and others died due to a preexisting conditioned worsened by the virus and are not counted in this figure.

(cont. VOX)

After homelessness or death, there is a third outcome, another extended consequence of being denied bail and incarcerated based on an accusation.

Kalief Browder sat in jail for three years while the prosecution delayed his trial. He was bullied, abused, and beaten by inmates and guards, spending a cumulative two years in solitary confinement. He attempted suicide three times while he was locked up, and a few months after his release (because Bautista went back to Mexico and the prosecution no longer had a witness), his tried again and was sent to a psychiatric facility. After two more stints at the facility, Kalief succeeded in taking his own life because he couldn’t move past the injustice that had happened to him. The City of New York paid his family $3.3 million last year in a civil suit, but no one has been held individually responsible for delaying his trial for three years and keeping him behind bars where he was tortured and abused and broken.

We don’t actually know how many people are in jail because they’re too poor to bail themselves out because there’s no standardized method set up for reporting that. An oft-reported figure of 450,000 people sitting in jail without having been convicted of a crime also includes people the justice system has deemed unbailable, which would have applied to Kalief Browder because he was denied bail due to his probation. There is a study that says 9 out of 10 felony defendants are too poor to meet the bail that has been set for them, so even without a specific number, we know that thousands and thousands and thousands of people can’t make bail. We also know from prison records that almost half of our prison population is behind bars due to drug offenses, meaning these are non-violent criminals who aren’t a high risk threat to the community. If 90% of people awaiting trial can’t afford bail and half the people passing through our legal system have drug charges, then 200,000 non-violent criminals are sitting in jails across the country, losing their jobs and their homes, contracting illnesses, and watching their mental health deteriorate sometimes past the point of no return, because they simply don’t have enough money to buy their freedom.

I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t have any hair, if I had been arrested and charged and given a bail amount that I couldn’t make, but I do know I wouldn’t be walking the streets of my community with sponsorships from coffeebrands.

 

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