The Connecticut Judicial Branch is planning to set forth new rules for cash bail that will make it easier for those awaiting trial to stay out of jail before their court date. The new rules have been proposed as part of an overall update to the state’s Practice Book, which governs certain court proceedings in Connecticut.
The new rules would lower the amount of cash bail required for pretrial release from 10% of the total bail to 7%. They would also raise the maximum amount of bail which triggers this 7% cash threshold from $20,000 to $50,000.
In simplest terms, if you are arrested in Connecticut and the court or police department sets your bail at or below $50,000, you can go home if you pay at least 7% of that amount to the court. That money would then be returned to you as long as you make your court appearances and follow the procedures set for you.
Republicans unhappy with these proposed changes are asking the Judiciary to delay implementation until the legislature has its say. They claim the new rules would make it easier for those held on serious charges to get out of jail while their case is pending.
“Whether it be car-jackings of defenseless, elderly women in West Hartford, Wethersfield or Hamden, or heinous driveway assaults such as the recent crime in Rocky Hill that gained national attention, every day residents awake to headlines and television reports that raise alarm about the types of crime they’re unaccustomed to seeing in their communities,” House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora said in a statement. “The last thing that residents, let alone crime victims, expect to see is our Judicial system make life easier for criminals. Yet, that’s exactly what the proposed practice book changes on bail would do.”
Proponents of cash bail reform, including those with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut, however, point out that those awaiting trial have not yet been convicted of a crime and believe potentially innocent persons shouldn’t remain behind bars because they cannot afford to pay bail.
“Each day someone sits in pre-trial detention they are at risk of losing their job, housing, and other critical means of survival, while also facing the health risks of being incarcerated during an ongoing pandemic,” said Dan Barrett, legal director at the ACLU. “The proposal to create a new 7% rule, while also increasing the threshold for people who are eligible to bond out on 7%, is a good step toward ending poverty incarceration. The data has shown that people using our current 10% option show up to court at the same rates as those using the bail bond industry, so there is no reason not to make this change.”
The ACLU also points to statistics that indicate that the majority, 72%, of people in Connecticut’s jail system awaiting trial are Black, Latinx, or Asian American Pacific Islanders, which may indicate a deeper problem.
The rule changes will be part of a public hearing this coming Monday, May 8th, at 10 am and will be broadcast on the Judicial Branch’s Youtube page.