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Facing multiple rape charges, Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to the authorities around 7:30 a.m. May 25 and was out by midmorning, having met the terms of his bail — $10 million bond or $1 million cash.
Such is not the case for half a million people nationwide — who are disproportionately people of color — who cannot afford bail, and whose options instead are to plead guilty, stay in jail indefinitely awaiting trial or take out a high-interest loan from a bail bond company. The bail bond industry earns about $2 billion in profits annually, according to NextGen America, a progressive 501(c)(4) (social welfare organization) founded by billionaire Tom Steyer.
NextGen America tapped Psych and West Wing alum Dulé Hill for a PSA in support of California Senate Bill 10, which would aim to reform the bail system and make sure that people are not incarcerated pretrial simply because they cannot afford money bail. The bill stipulates, in part, a pretrial risk assessment to be conducted for each defendant within six hours of arrest.
In the PSA, Hill interviews Homeboy Industries’ member Garry Powers on his experience in the money bail system. Powers testifies that borrowing money from a bondsman in order to avoid jail trapped him in a cycle of debt that led to his being sued by the bail bond company.
“So beyond the legal situation you [already] have, you have another legal situation that is going to keep backing you further and further in a corner,” Hill responds. “I can see how it’s inequitable to people because you’re only punishing me that much more because I do not have money.”
“It’s almost as if we’re being criminalized because we’re poor,” Powers agrees.
Thousands of Californians are affected by the inability to post money bail, according to NextGen America, which adds that one in three incarcerated people in the state are eventually found not guilty.
“There has to be a more equitable process for individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the law but do not have the financial means to navigate the bail system smoothly,” says Hill, who will next be seen as a series regular on the upcoming eighth season of USA’s Suits. “Whether it’s the life story of Kalief Browder [the Bronx teen who was wrongfully arrested, imprisoned without trial in Rikers for three years and eventually committed suicide] or countless others, it’s obvious that there is something terribly wrong with our bail system that needs to be improved. While I may not have all the nuanced knowledge of the system or all the answers on how to fix it, I have been blessed with a microphone, which I intend to use to shine a spotlight on those who do.”
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