Declaration of Support for OPPRC’s municipal bail reform ordinance

The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition is a group of concerned organizations and individuals who believe that the reform of our community’s criminal justice system is vital to our city’s future. OPPRC is concerned about people languishing in jail in our city simply because they are too poor to make bail while awaiting trial on municipal charges. OPPRC and partners have drafted an ordinance to address this problem. The ordinance would eliminate financial bond and pre-trial detention for most municipal offenses.

OPPRC is recommending that the City Council pass an ordinance to change bail setting practices in municipal court. The municipal bail reform ordinance makes sense for New Orleans. Here’s why:

- Jailing people simply because they are too poor to make bail doesn’t make us safer.
Incarceration often results in job loss, loss of housing, family breakdown; we all suffer, as
a result. Jurisdictions that have implemented bail reform have seen improved or
unchanged public safety.

- It’s important for racial justice. Numerous studies have found that African American
defendants receive substantially-often 35% or more- higher bonds than white
defendants with similar situations. African American and Latino defendants are 2 times
more likely than white defendants to be held on bail amounts they could not afford.

- It's important for gender justice. Women are disproportionately affected by court-­related costs. According to a 2014 report on the costs of incarceration by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, 83% of the family members who were primarily responsible for court­-related costs were women.

- In August 2016, the Department of Justice declared that jailing people pre-trial because they cannot afford bail is unconstitutional.

Personal wealth should not determine who gets released and who remains jailed while awaiting trial for minor offenses. To quote the US Supreme Court, “...detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.”

We the undersigned declare our support for municipal bail ordinance.

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