Each night in North Dakota, thousands of people sit in jail for one reason only—they’re too poor to get out. They’re neither dangerous nor a flight risk, they simply don’t have enough money to pay their cash bail. And these amounts are usually low, rarely exceeding $5,000.00. With the use of a bail bondsman, that means freedom costs $500.00 or less. Unable to pay, people instead remain in custody and wait for their day in court, which can take weeks or even months.
By contrast, people wealthy enough to afford their cash bail are promptly released and able to go back to their regular lives while their cases progress.
Not only does this create a legal caste system that rewards the rich and punishes the poor, it also presents two public policy concerns. First, it severely disrupts still-innocent peoples’ lives. And second, it’s very expensive for taxpayers. The article linked below, focuses on the second concern—the cost of jailing people pretrial. North Dakota is paying millions per year to keep people in custody, but is it getting any benefit for its money? This article examines costs incurred at one North Dakota facility—the Cass County Jail in Fargo.