Lawmakers introduce bills to reform cash bail system

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- Some state lawmakers are saying the cash bail system in Michigan is broken and they introduced new bills to change it.

State Reps. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), along with state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D- Ann Arbor) held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce the introduction of the Safe and Fair Bail legislative package.

The lawmakers are calling the current system an injustice, and they say the system heavily burdens people with lower incomes, as well as minorities.

The bills would make sure people awaiting trial in jail are only kept there when they pose a danger to society and not when they can't afford bail. They would also give judges the tools they need to set fair bail.

According to the lawmakers, 41% of county jail inmates are held in jail because they can't post bail. While awaiting trial in jail, defendants may lose wages, employment, housing or even their children.

Dana Nessel, the Attorney General of Michigan said the bills will save taxpayers and counties a lot of money.

According to a 2015 Department of Justice report, roughly 41% of jail inmates in Michigan were awaiting trial with an average cost of $75 a day per person to house them. It can cost approximately $500,000 a day, and more than $180 million a year to keep citizens locked up because they can't afford to post bail.

"We're not making the communities any more safe so the kinds of reforms that have been suggested, and that are involved in this package are going to be incredibly important and will go a long way towards making our communities safer and also saving us a lot of money," Nessel said.

The package consists of 10 bills and one resolution to address the many components of the bail system.

Rep. LaGrand’s bill would make pretrial release the standard and require judges to take a person’s ability to pay into account when setting bail.

Other bills in the package prevent judges from setting bail outside of a defendants ability to pay and requires that defendants have access to financial disclosure forms.

The package also creates a system of accountability by requiring courts to submit a regular report to the State Court Administrative Office to track bail cases, and will encouraging local governments to monitor and repurpose a portion of their savings toward community policing.

The lawmakers as well as Attorney General Nessel are hopeful these bills will pass both the House and Senate.