Justice

Public Defender Scott Hechinger Breaks Down America's Bail System

Public defender Scott Hechinger broke down America's bail system to explain why wealth-based detention is a “national crisis” that needs to end.

“Here’s what’s crazy: five minutes is over five times longer than the time it takes judges in the criminal court where I practice to decide to jail one of my clients pretrial, presumed innocent until their case is over, on cash bail they can’t possibly afford,” he stated.

Hechinger said the decisions are based solely on bare bones allegations and a person’s criminal history, and have no regard to who the individual really is or their financial circumstance. This is why 87% of his clients can’t afford bail and have to join close to a quarter of a million people detained pretrial only because they can’t afford it.

He also explained that 89% of the population on Rikers island population that are pretrial are Black or Latinx. Bail also often forces alleged felons to plead guilty before they even get a fair trial, just so they don’t have to stay in jail.

“Public defenders are fed up with the status quo,” Hechinger stated. “We’ve become movement leaders: We’ve started bail funds across the country. We’ve successfully challenged unconstitutional bail practices.”