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Charlotte Talks: Bail Has Kept The Poor Locked Up. That's Changing In Mecklenburg.

Flickr / meesh

Monday, April 15, 2019

A new approach to bail in Mecklenburg County hopes to reverse a system that overly penalized the poor by keeping them behind bars only because they lacked the means to pay. Mike Collins talks with justice system leaders about the shift in policy.

Advocates for bail reform have said 450,000 are awaiting trial in jails across the country because they can't afford their bail, not because of their threat to the community. 

But since March, Mecklenburg County has used a new method that leaders said would make the county a national leader in bail reform.

Rather than having a pre-determined range of amounts for specific crimes, judges are using a formula that Chief District Court Judge Regan Miller said would allow them to "be smart(er) about who is going to jail and who isn't."

California recently passed a law that goes a step further - eliminating cash bail. But that approach still faced criticism from, among other groups, the ACLU, which said judges had too much discretion in determining which defendants remained in custody.


Spencer Merriweather, Mecklenburg County District Attorney

Elizabeth Trosch, district court judge, Mecklenburg County

Kevin Tully, Mecklenburg County Public Defender

Kristie Puckett-Williams, regional field director, ACLU of North Carolina's Campaign for Smart Justice

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