Approved unanimously on June 7, 2022 by the Governing Board of the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Considerable empirical evidence demonstrates that the cash bail system is inequitable and ineffective. The cash bail system requires pretrial defendants to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to keep from going to jail. Because of the economic challenges a significant portion of these arrestees lack the 10% non refundable premium a Bail Agent charges, they end up spending weeks and months in jail awaiting trial. Courts, often secured through bail bondsmen, and typically results in low income individuals agreeing to usurious borrowing terms to obtain funds. Several municipalities and states throughout the United States, and a few places in North Carolina, have successfully enacted other approaches to pretrial requirements for defendants accused of misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.
Christian scripture is awash in declarations about incarceration, especially related to those suffering oppression through imprisonment. Isaiah proclaims, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners . . .” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11). These verses served as the foundation for the first public sermon Jesus preached (Luke 4:14-21). In Matthew we learn, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. . . . Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For . . . I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46 )
Multiple studies, including the work of Jessica Smith, W.R. Kenyan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at UNC School of Government, report the need for change based on four problems with the current system: public safety (wealthier individuals can buy their way out of incarceration); costs to taxpayers; fairness; and racial and ethnic disparities.
WHEREAS, the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and African Americans, Latinos, Latinas, and indigenous peoples are disproportionately incarcerated in the United States;
WHEREAS, since 2000, the vast majority of the jail population increase was caused by the detention of individuals prior to trial (pretrial) of which 60 to 70% were classified nonviolent minimum-security;
WHEREAS, cash bail bonding is an over 2-billion-dollar industry;
WHEREAS, the inability to make cash bail extracts an untold human cost on the accused due to their loss of employment, housing and, often times, family support;
WHEREAS, there are proven instances of inadequate health care for incarcerated persons, death and injury suffered by incarcerated persons;
WHEREAS, at least 70% of people held in local jails are not convicted of any crime;
WHEREAS, persons who cannot make bail are poor and four times more likely to receive jail time with sentences three times longer than those who do make bail;
WHEREAS, bail set for people of color exceeds that for whites by 35%;
WHEREAS, three out of four criminal cases in state trial courts are for misdemeanors that, if proved, would result in fines and/or less than a year in jail;
WHEREAS, political contributions made by the Bail Industry in between 2002 and 2016 exceeded $5,000,000;
WHEREAS, money-based systems release nearly half of the most dangerous defendants with little to no meaningful supervision;
WHEREAS, the US is the only nation besides the Philippines to have a legal commercial bail bond industry;
WHEREAS, corporate and/or systemic structures, or individuals which derive profit from the imprisonment of human beings serve to perpetuate the legacy of slavery, oppression and heartless greed which the North Carolina Council of Churches has long sought to expose and correct and;
WHEREAS, we are instructed as followers of Jesus to “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (Hebrews 13:3);
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,
That the North Carolina Council of Churches calls for reform of the bail bond system and encourages alternatives to this system. We encourage our member bodies to raise awareness in their respective congregations about the theological, social, racial, ethnic and economic inequities which make possible the existence of the unfair and unjust bail bond systems. We encourage our respective congregations to seek partnerships with other organizations in their communities working toward this goal.