New Orleans City Council Overhauls Bail System!
Hell has frozen over and pigs are flying. Years late but not too soon, the New Orleans City Council, by unanimous vote, modernized the antiquated Orleans Parish bail system. If you were poor, you were put in jail. That is wrong on every level. Now, if you are charged with a nonviolent crime, and meet certain important conditions, you won’t be jailed, you’ll be free on your own recognizance.
This is a momentous time for the city of New Orleans. As I have said often, how we treat our most disadvantaged is a window into our morality. Of course, in New Orleans and around Louisiana, court fees and bail bonds pay for the sheriff’s salary. Less prisoners means a lower budget for the sheriff. You can see why they want a full jail.
Historically, Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. That’s a horrible distinction to own. Our incarceration rate is 5x Iran’s, 13x China’s and 20x German’s rate of incarceration.
This momentous decision came about after of months of wrangling and negotiation among council members, who were divided when this bill first came up in September of last year. The bill failed to pass then as the council deadlocked.
Presently, Municipal Court judges make the decision as to how much bail is assigned to a given inmate. The rate varies from $150 for small time offenses to $2,500 for more serious crimes. Prisoners are automatically released without bail for less than half the 35 different offenses the court handles.
Defendants who cannot pay bail go before a judge, who then makes the call about reducing the bond.
The new passed version is a much smarter bill than the September one. That’s because the council members consulted with judges and law enforcement officials in the interim. There are special rules for repeat offenders, no-shows, flight risks or those in imminent danger. The first bill was lacking many of these improvements, and the Municipal Court judges and many bail bondsmen opposed it.
If you are awaiting trial and get arrested again, your bail is revoked. If you have the cash on hand to pay your bond, you won’t have to pay more than $2500.