In Pa. Legal guidelines handed by Home would “virtually destroy” neighborhood bail funds | Information | Pittsburgh
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
More than twenty cars blocked Second Avenue outside Allegheny County Jail as people protested conditions for black women, demanding the release of inmates, and the use of cash deposits on Tuesday, Jan.
Starting last year, coinciding with the numerous arrests of Black Lives Matter protesters across the country, community bail funds began to spread to help defendants avoid prison sentences. Cash bail is often assigned to people who have been charged but not convicted of crimes and to those unable to bail who are in jail.
Community bail funds, like the Bukit Bail Fund in Pittsburgh, raised money from the public, and the bail funds would then match the deposits for those who needed them. Nyssa Taylor of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania says community bond funds “are really becoming safety valves for a lot of people.” There are currently eight community bond funds in Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Lancaster to Harrisburg to Montgomery County.
But a bill going through the Pennsylvania House would put those bond funds at risk. The 2046 House Bill would require community bail funds to register as a licensed bail bondman. This bill was recently passed through a party line vote by the committee, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats against. On November 16, the House of Representatives passed it with 111 votes to 88.
Taylor says if it were passed by the state Senate and then turned into law, it would basically wipe out all of the state’s communal bond funds.
“To go through all of these licenses that would practically destroy all of them,” says Taylor.
State representative Emily Kinkead (D-North Side) spoke against this bill in plenary. Calling HB 2046 a “solution to a problem,” she noted that Republicans on the committee said they had no problems with community guarantees.
“There’s nothing they want to fix. And we’re going to shoot that through the legislature, ”says Kinkead. This is basically a giveaway for the bond industry. Tell me when was the last time in 12 days an invoice went from the introduction to the last passage. ”
The vote was largely partisan, with Republicans almost entirely supported and Democrats almost entirely in opposition. Two Republicans opposed the bill and two Democrats backed it, including Allegheny County MP Tony DeLuca (D-Penn Hills).
Kinkead says that “cash bail doesn’t really dictate what it’s supposed to accomplish, and it only destroys families and people’s lives.” She’s not sure what the state Senate will do with the bill, but if HB 2046 makes it through this chamber, she’s hoping that Governor Tom Wolf (D-York) will veto it.
HB 2046 would change the Pennsylvanian Bail Bondman definition from “a person providing bail in guarantee of compensation” to “a professional bondman or surety bondman”. It would require any company that pays bail without earning financial compensation more than three times in a 30 day window to be licensed with the state.
Community bail funds are typically not-for-profit and volunteer-run charities that raise money to post bail for people jailed before their trial, usually for those who cannot afford to leave bail .
If passed, those funds must be licensed by paying $ 125 in application fees, getting a credit check and criminal background check, and requiring them to have a “suitable place of business,” otherwise known as a stationary location to maintain.
Taylor says community bond funds have become a community resource, making efforts to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to save people on holidays like Mother’s Day. She says people who cannot afford the bail are an urban problem, a suburban problem, and a rural problem that continues across the Commonwealth.
Cash bail is not just assigned to individuals charged with serious criminal offenses. In the summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter protesters were often given cash bail, mostly charged with offenses such as disorderly conduct or failure to break up. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 32 protesters were sentenced to 10% of any cash amount between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000 and eight to 10% of $ 10,000 in connection with arrests in the summer of 2020.
Taylor says it wasn’t just community bond funds that could be affected by this law. The law, if passed, would apply to anyone who pays bail who is not licensed. She says that if a mother had to pay bail for her four children, she could only bail three of them within a 30-day window.
And some studies show that cash deposits have little to no impact on court appearance rates or public safety. University of Pennsylvania academics analyzed data from Philadelphia in 2018 and showed that no-show and arrest rates did not increase after no cash bail was assigned.
According to a report from the Abolitionist Law Center, the court reports May 11, 2020 through 8th this period. Only about 13% of Allegheny County’s residents are black.
Both Kinkead and Taylor are at a loss as to where this bill came from. Kinkead says there has not been a co-sponsored memorandum allowing lawmakers to provide assistance prior to launch. Taylor suspects that the bond industry is driving it.
According to the Pennsylvania Capital star, Republican supporters of the bill say community bail funds exist in a loophole and should be registered and regulated in some way. State Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York) introduced HB 2046 and defended the law.
“You are essentially holding out as a bailiff. They’re just a not-for-profit agency, ”Klunk told the capital star. “So you should be required to have insurance and do these checks to make sure everything is okay.”
It did not disclose who was lobbying for this bill, but the Capital star reported that the likely advocate was Nick Wachinski, a registered lobbyist who headed a bond industry group and currently has at least four bond customers.
As of 2019, Wachinski has donated $ 16,750 to House Republicans and $ 20,250 to Senate Republicans in campaign contributions.
“Community bail funds are a charity, like a soup kitchen or an animal shelter. It is abhorrent that state lawmakers are passing laws that could result in these organizations being closed, “PA Director’s ACLU Reggie Shuford said in a press release. “Pretrial detention can ruin lives, and often it is only the work of municipal bail funds that keep people unable to afford bail from ruining their lives before they are ever convicted of a crime, especially blacks and browns. This bill should be dead by the time it arrives in the state Senate. ”