Re: Opposition to Resolve S. 1851
Dear Chairpersons Gregoire, Pacheco, and Committee Members,
The Massachusetts Bail Fund pays up to $500 bail so that low-income people can stay free while they work towards resolving their case, allowing individuals, families, and communities to stay productive, together, and stable. Pre-trial freedom leads to better case and life outcomes. The Massachusetts Bail Fund is committed to the harm reduction of freeing individuals serving pre-trial sentences, and to abolishing pre-trial detention and supervision in the long-term.
Bail Fund volunteers post bail throughout the Commonwealth, at every jail and courthouse. Since 2013 we have posted 1999 bails, at a cost of $976,027.00 in bail and $73,836.00 in bail commissioner fees (the non-refundable fee paid for each bail posted at a jail). Our forfeiture rate is 3%, and, more importantly, 47% of all our closed cases are dismissed entirely.
For the past four years, we have posted bail at MCI-Framingham, where women prosecuted in Middlesex County are incarcerated pre-trial. In total, we have posted bail for 90 women jailed pre-trial at MCI-Framingham, at a cost of $35,800 in bail and $3,301 in bail commissioner fees. Nineteen of those women were prosecuted out of Middlesex County.
The Massachusetts Bail Fund opposes S.1851
We should focus Massachusetts resources on decarceration not incarceration
Voters, Legislators, and District Attorneys around the country and in Massachusetts have recognized the gross inequities in our cash bail system. Newly elected District Attorneys in Suffolk and Berkshire Counties have instituted policies pledging to address wealth-based detention in their jurisdictions, acknowledging the harms pre-trial incarceration has on individuals, their families, and their cases.
On any given day about 40% of the women in MCI Framingham are there pre-trial, many of whom are there on bail they cannot afford. All of these women can and should be home, in their communities, addressing their cases while advancing their lives. Pre-trial release affects both case outcomes and long-term economic prosperity. When people are released pretrial, they not only are more likely to receive a favorable case disposition, they are also “11.3 percentage points more likely to have any income two years after their bail hearing and 9.4 percentage points more likely to be formally employed 3 to 4 years after conviction.”
Pretrial detention in Massachusetts, and specifically in Middlesex County, is already limited, and likely decreasing. A recent statewide study by the Trial Court, showed that 79% of people prosecuted are released pre-trial. In Middlesex County, the number is even lower, where 5% of people with open cases prosecuted by DA Ryan’s office are incarcerated pre-trial.
We have posted bail for women at MCI-Framingham who are mothers, who are caregivers, who are daughters and sisters; women struggling with housing, mental health diagnoses, and addiction. We are acutely aware of the challenges the people whose bail we post face. We also know that we cannot prosecute or incarcerate people out of poverty and into health and stability. Massachusetts resources should be spent on the root causes of prosecution and incarceration; poverty, housing, addiction, and health care, and not on new jails or prisons.
We strongly urge the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight to not allow this resolve to move forward. Rather, we recommend that the Commonwealth continue its important work of decarcerating and strengthening our communities.