National Bail Fund leaves Georgia over new law that increases bail amounts and restricts aid groups

ATLANTA (AP) — The Bail Project, a national nonprofit that helps thousands of low-income people behind bars, announced Monday that it has closed its Atlanta office due to a new Georgia law that increases bail amounts and Organizations that post bail for prisoners while they await their trial.

Senate Bill 63which takes effect next month requires bail for 30 additional crimes, including 18 that are always or often misdemeanors, including failure to appear in court on a traffic ticket.

It also prohibits individuals and organizations from posting more than three bail bonds per year unless they meet the requirements to be licensed as a bail bond company, which includes passing background checks, paying fees, obtaining a business license, obtaining local sheriff's approval, and establishing an escrow account or other form of collateral.

Paying bail maintains a two-tiered legal system in which two people accused of the same crime are treated very differently: Those who can afford bail are released, while those who cannot are often detained for months awaiting their court date, the Bail Project statement said.

“Across the country, more than a dozen jurisdictions have eliminated or minimized cash bail and redirected funds to services that prevent crime and increase community safety,” the organization said. “Legislators in Georgia could have taken similar evidence-based actions, including speed-up laws to prevent trial delays and investing in preventive services to reduce reliance on pretrial detention. Instead, they have chosen a path that perpetuates more incarceration, racial inequality, trauma and harm.”

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said at his signing ceremony last month that SB 63 would “ensure that dangerous individuals cannot walk our streets and commit further crimes.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia threatened to sue, calling it “cruel, costly and counterproductive.”

Democrats had urged Kemp to block the bill, saying it would worsen prison overcrowding and disproportionately affect poor minority defendants. They called it a gift to for-profit bail bonds companies and a betrayal of Kemp's predecessor, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who had made criminal justice reform a hallmark of his life.

Since its launch in 2018 The Bail Project The organization said it paid $81 million to free more than 30,000 people from pretrial detention in over 30 jurisdictions, preventing nearly 1.2 million days of detention and reducing collateral consequences such as loss of jobs, housing and child custody, the group said.

Those helped by the Bail Project showed up for over 90% of their court dates. According to the nonprofit, this statistic “disproves the notion that bail is a necessary incentive to ensure a person's future court date.”

Anna Harden

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