ACLU Promises to Sue State of Georgia if Governor Signs Bill Mandating Cash Bail Again

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By The Vanguard Staff

ATLANTA, GA – The ACLU of Georgia this week promised to file suit if Gov. Brian Kemp signs a measure that would mandate a return to cash bail for 30 additional crimes – more than half that could be charged as misdemeanors.

According to a report from Atlanta News First, the legislation, SB 63. would also limit “charitable bail funds or even individuals from bailing multiple people out of jail, reserving that ability only to those who meet legal requirements to be bail bond companies.”

The ACLU said the bill “would roll back changes that were passed almost unanimously in 2018 under then-Gov. Nathan Deal. That law allowed judges to release many people accused of misdemeanors without bail,” explained Atlanta News First.

“Cash bail systems hurt people who cannot afford to pay and do not make communities safer. The state of Georgia is moving backward in terms of people being equal before the law regardless of how much money they have,” said a spokesperson for the ACLU of Georgia.

“We at the ACLU of Georgia believe that we have a moral and legal imperative to do what we can to stop this law from going into effect and from wreaking the havoc that it will wreak if it goes into effect. And so our plan is to litigate and sue the state if this bill is signed into law,” said Cory Isaacson, policy director for the ACLU of Georgia. 

Isaacson, noted Atlanta News First, said the bill violates an individual’s constitutional right to due process and equal protections, outlined in the 14th Amendment, and that “limiting a faith-based organization from bailing out a maximum of three individuals per year as outlined in the bill, also violates an entity’s 1st amendment rights of freedom of expression.”

“This legislation will make it clear that Georgia is not going down the path of failure seen by other states and communities that have eliminated cash bail. It’s been an unmitigated disaster,” said Rep. Houston Gaines, who maintains the bill “promotes public safety by ensuring offenders do not cycle through the jail system,” reported Atlanta News First.

However, the bill’s opponents insist the measure will also lead to overcrowding at jails with more inmates unable to pay for their bail ahead of trial. 

“When you use someone’s wealth or lack of wealth to determine whether or not they languish in jail, you exacerbate disparities, you make us less safe, you increase recidivism and you cost the state and the taxpayers huge amounts of money,” said the ACLU’s Isaacson.

Isaacson said, according to Atlanta News First, that there are few people in jail now for misdemeanors, but that’s because “judges can use their discretion to not issue a cash bail for misdemeanor offenses, a discretion that will be taken away for certain misdemeanor offenses in SB 63.

“So it will absolutely exacerbate the overcrowding situation in our jails, and absolutely make an already dire situation much, much worse,” Isaacson said.

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