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Exploring Bail Injustice

Robin Steinberg's Talk on Bail Considers Those Who Can't Pay

— May 8, 2018 — Keynote Trends
Robin Steinberg, an American lawyer and social justice advocate, delivered a talk on bail injustice for TED, in which she considers the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are locked up in jail simply because they don't have the money to pay their bail, even when sums are less than $500.

She begins by telling her audience about the first time she had to visit a client in jail, when she learned firsthand the level of indecency that was forced upon those there. The feeling she left with stuck with her, and inspired her to fight for every client's freedom as if it was her own. She goes on to consider the US incarceration rate, as well as the over 450,000 people who are stuck in jail due to unpaid bail, despite not actually having been convicted of anything.

As Steinberg explains, bail has created a two-tiered justice system, where the rich can be set free and the poor are penalized. She further explains the injustice of this by telling the story of a man who was arrested for riding his bike on the sidewalk and got into an argument with police when they stopped him for it. The 32-year-old father was not able to pay his $500 bail, so he was stuck in jail. Often times, many end up having to plead guilty just to get out of this position, and leave with a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

In addition to being completely immoral, holding people for not being able to pay their bail is incredibly costly in the long run too. Apart from this, statistics show that holding people in jail increases their likelihood of committing a crime once they're out. As bail injustice most prominently affects people of color and low income communities, freedom has become greatly inaccessible to those without the means to pay for it.

Steinberg concludes her talk on bail by considering some of the solutions to this kind of injustice, showing how steps can be taken to provide the necessary funds for those in need so that they can gain the freedom those with more money already have access to. Although resources like the Freedom Fund have greatly impacted many lives, Steinberg hopes to reform the legal system so that others aren't put in such situations.