Pa. Lawmaker wants to eliminate incarcerating people who can’t afford bail

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania lawmaker has introduced legislation to end pretrial detention for people who cannot afford their bail in the commonwealth.

State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) introduced the measure. It would not eliminate bail entirely. Bail would still be set, and the defendant would have to pay if they failed to appear in court.

“The American system of justice holds sacred the idea that we are all innocent until proven guilty," says Leach, "and yet, on any given day, about half a million Americans are in jail even though they have not been convicted of the crime with which they have been charged.

"Tying the payment of bail to pretrial imprisonment is simply a way to warehouse poor people in jail, where they lose not only their freedom, but often their job, family, and home.  The current policy is discriminatory, unjust, immoral, and utterly senseless," says Leach.

Not everyone agrees with Leach's proposal. York County District Attorney Tom Kearney pointed out that judges already let some people go home and await trial without having to pay bail.

"I think the system works well. I think the judges and the magistrates look at it reasonably and I would argue, if it ain't broke don't fix it," said Kearney.  "We have a hard time collecting fines and costs as it is, much less, adding $5,000 or $10,000 to somebody's bail, and then trying to collect it from them at the end of the case."