Cash bail being challenged in Kentucky Supreme Court

Amid increased discussions about Kentucky’s pretrial release system and how to handle the issue of cash bail, the Department of Public Advocacy has asked the Supreme Court of Kentucky to establish clear constitutional rules for pretrial release decisions.

The action, taken on behalf of 10 named clients of the department, highlights numerous challenges to pretrial release practices across the state and argues action by the Supreme Court is necessary to fix the issues.

“Kentucky’s system of pretrial release is badly broken. As legal counsel to most of the thousands of Kentuckians who are held in jails pretrial, we have to act to protect our clients’ presumption of innocence and constitutional right to reasonable bail,” Kentucky Public Advocate Damon Preston said in a statement Tuesday.

With this petition, for the first time in Kentucky, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide if “money bail” is constitutional. According to the press release, five of the clients in the petition are currently in jail with cash bail and are unable to meet the amount to be released.

A Pegasus Institute study found 64,123 non-violent, non-sexual defendants detained in 2016 because they could not afford their bail, staying an average of 109 days.  At the same time, there were 43 high-risk, violent or sexual offenders who were released after posting bond.

In 2017, local governments lost $152 million because of Kentucky’s current bail reform system. In July of 2018, 73 percent jails were at or over capacity and close to ten jails were at or over 200 percent capacity.

Preston noted that many of Kentucky’s jails are overflowing and added “we’ve talked about bail reform without action for too long. Something has to be done now.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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