Thousands Spend Time in Jail for Being Poor, UCLA Finds

Thousands Spend Time in Jail for Being Poor, UCLA Finds

New report sheds light on injustice of LA prison system

by Shantell E. Jamison, December 4, 2017

Thousands Spend Time in Jail for Being Poor, UCLA Finds

A UCLA report is revealing some shocking information about the less fortunate.

According to researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles, $19 billion has been levied against those who have been detained and arrested by the LAPD.

The report, “The Price of Freedom: Bail in the City of L.A.,” analyzes data that show that city residents “pay a steep price before their innocence or guilt has been determined.”

The report is part of a project called Million Dollar Hoods. Its researchers used arrest data tied to Los Angeles that took place between 2012 and 2016. It revealed that arrestees were charged $19,386,418,544 in bail money during that time period.

Using LAPD arrest data, researchers found that people arrested in LA paid more than $17 million in cash to the court and an estimated $193 million in nonrefundable bail bond deposits to bail bond agents.

 The report also concluded that most people with bail against them never pay it, so they stay behind bars despite not being convicted of a crime. The authors of the report cited poverty as a reason for arrestees not coming up with the cash.

Below are some key findings of the report:

  • Residents of Council Districts 8 and 9 had the most bail levied against them in the five-year period, as well as the highest unemployment rates.
  • A total of 223,366 people were jailed because they did not make bail.
  • Of the $193.8 million paid to bail bond agents between 2012 and 2016, Latinos paid $92.1 million, African-Americans paid $40.7 million and Whites paid $37.9 million.
  • Nearly $4 billion was levied against homeless persons.

“This is an astounding toll that Los Angeles residents—not yet convicted of any crime—are charged for their freedom,” said professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, interim director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. “It’s no wonder that so many Californians remain imprisoned before trial simply because they cannot afford bail. This is an extraordinary amount of wealth taken primarily from low-income, communities of color.”

Dayvon Williams spent seven months in prison because he could not make bail. He said at age 18, the experience changed his life and meant a drastic impact on his health.

“I have epilepsy and the guards wouldn’t give me the proper dosage of my medication,” he said. “I had multiple seizures and was put in solitary confinement for two weeks. Because I didn’t have any money to pay a bail bond company, my health suffered and I missed my graduation.”

Click here for the full report.

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