HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) –
The ACLU of Hawaii on Wednesday released a report that claims nearly half of the people in Hawaii’s jails remain incarcerated because they are unable to post bail – and the state’s bail system, as presently constructed, threatens their civil liberties.
The study concluded that pre-trial detainees in Honolulu wait in jail an average of 71 days, primarily because they cannot pay to get out while they wait for a trial date.
Moreover, the study claimed that those who were able to afford the bond required for their release end up with vastly different results in both their cases and their post-trial lives.
The report – titled “As Much Justice as You Can Afford – Hawaii’s Accused Face an Unjust Bail System” – is the result of an ongoing, statewide investigation and analysis of the state’s bail-setting practices and how it affects local families and communities. It was researched and written by Ainsley Dowling.
ACLU of Hawaii studied bail-setting practices during the first six months of 2017. Researchers found circuit courts in Hawaii set money bail as a condition of release in 88 percent of cases, though only 44 percent of those people managed to eventually post the amount of bail set by the court.
The study found the average bail amount for a Class C felony on Oahu is set at $20,000. Even with help from a bail agency, posting bond would require an out-of-pocket expense of about $2,000.
Officials explain that bail amounts are supposed to be based on a consideration of multiple factors, including flight risk, ability to pay and danger to the community. Instead researchers claim that in 91 percent of cases in Hawaii, initial money bail simply mirrors the amount set by the police in the arrest warrant – an amount that is based solely only on the crime charged.
Experts say bail is supposed to minimize the risk of flight and danger to society while preserving the defendant’s constitutional rights.
The ACLU of Hawaii contends that the bail setting process in the state does not achieve any of these purposes. Instead, they claim it regularly causes individuals to waive their constitutional rights simply to get out of jail.
During their research, the ACLU found 69 percent of the arrestees who changed their pleas from innocent to guilty or no contest did so while held in jail, primarily because they could not afford bail.
According to the report, pre-trial incarceration is one main factors for overcrowding in Hawaii jails. The study finds community correctional centers are operating around double their intended capacity.
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