Note: LD 1703 was advanced out of committee with a vote of 10-2. It is now up for votes in the House and Senate.
The bail system is supposed to ensure people most people can be free awaiting trial. But it’s not working: today, the majority of people in Maine jails haven’t been convicted of a crime.
We have an unequal system where some people can buy their freedom while people with limited resources sit in jail awaiting trial. This system ignores the constitutional promise that people be treated as innocent until proven guilty, and that justice not depend on what is in a person’s wallet. It devastates the lives of people who lose their jobs, their homes, and even custody of their children while sitting in jail waiting for their day in court. And it is enormously expensive to Maine taxpayers, who foot the bill of holding people in jail.
This bill would make key reforms to Maine’s bail code, strengthening the due process protections of people accused of crimes. It would also require a bail commissioner or judge to take into account when setting bail whether a person is a primary caretaker, whether the person might lose their job, and whether they have health care needs that would be better met outside of jail. Finally, the bill would eliminate cash bail for most of the lowest level offenses, like drinking in public and low-level drug possession.