The Human Cost of Cash Bail

In the past 20 years, increases in pretrial detention have accounted for the majority of jail growth in the United States. The human cost is vast and intergenerational.

Pretrial detention exposes people to increased risk of physical and sexual violence, and it jeopardizes employment, housing, education, and even child custody. Held in jail while legally presumed innocent, people are 30% more likely to plead guilty simply to go home.

On any given night, nearly half a million people in the United States face these daunting prospects for one reason: they can’t afford cash bail.

Robin Steinberg urged the legal industry to adopt a more humane, equitable, and effective pretrial alternative. While providing access to bail funding for those without sufficient resources may help in the short term, she advocated for civil discourse around real systemic reform to stop the two-tiered judicial system.