The money bail system perpetuates poverty and injustice, making it a crime to be poor. It’s time for that to change.

Close to half a million people across the country are trapped in jail before being convicted of a crime. They can’t afford to buy their freedom, forcing them to sit in jail while they await trial.

The U.S. system of money bail—where the private bail bond industry turns a profit of $2 billion a year—is an outlier compared to other countries. Money bail criminalizes poverty by requiring people accused of a crime to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be released before trial. Money bail does not keep us safe. Rather, it undermines justice and fairness, disproportionately harms Black people and poor people of all races, and fuels cycles of poverty. Vera is committed to pretrial justice by ending money bail, reducing the number of people in jail, addressing racial and economic disparities, and keeping our communities safe.

increase in pretrial detention from 1970 to 2015 due to money bail
Young Black men are about 50% more likely to be detained pretrial than their white counterparts
The long-lasting harms of the money bail system.

Roughly half of people in the United States struggle to afford a $400 emergency expense, yet the average bail set on a felony case is $10,000. Pretrial detention increased 433 percent from 1970 to 2015 in large part due to the increased use of money bail.

Growth of jail incarceration in America

People jailed pretrial because they cannot make bail are more likely to lose their jobs, fall behind on rent, and lose custody of their children. Studies have concluded that even two days in jail, as a result of the unjust criminal legal system trapping the most vulnerable, can have detrimental effects to a person's wellbeing, destabilizing them and making it more likely they will be targeted and arrested again in the future.

Recent momentum for pretrial justice has led to bail reform in several jurisdictions, including New Jersey and New York, where the jail populations have dropped dramatically by almost one-half and one-third, respectively, and in Illinois, poised to become the first state in the country to entirely eliminate money bail.

Yet these gains face increasing backlash and fear mongering, despite studies and real-world evidence from New Jersey to Texas showing no connection between bail reform and crime. It's clear that it’s time to end the profit-making bail bond industry and eliminate the role of money bail once and for all. Vera is working to do just that by passing bail reform legislation across the country and partnering with governments and communities to envision a new system of pretrial justice so that people—disproportionately Black people, people of color, and people living in poverty—are no longer subjected to the harms of money bail and unnecessary pretrial detention.