Bail is a convenience for both criminally accused defendants, and for the jail system. Today, jails are crowded with citizens. While the general populace grows in size, policing continues, laws change, and jail space remains the same, the amount of currently incarcerated citizens continues to rise, and jail space becomes more and more overcrowded. The bail system is actually an aid in relieving overpopulated jails of their residents.
Since bail grants an accused criminal defendant the freedom to leave police custody and incarceration during the period between their arrest and their court proceedings, there are less citizens sitting in jail confines for that duration. While bail certainly isn’t a permanent solution to jail overpopulation – and in many cases it merely deters time spent in jail til sentencing – it does speak to the current state of the jail system and the current issue of overcrowding.
We’re led to ask, what is the cause of jail overcrowding? And how do we solve jail overcrowding?
The Cause of Jail Overcrowding
Jails and prisons may be overcrowded for a litany of reasons. First of all, the populous is growing in number here in America. That leads to more crime in general, more arrests, and more jail sentencing. Secondly, law is constantly shifting. As laws becomes more intricate, changing restraints on freedoms can result in more jailed citizens (take note, changing laws may also result in fewer jailed citizens). Third, growth in the power of police forces around the nation appears to be consistent. As the police force grows in strength and police gain more tools to aid in the pursuit of suspected criminals, more arrests are made. With more arrests come more jailed citizens.
Solving Jail Overcrowding
There are two distinct ways to solve jail overcrowding. First, we could build further jail structures and prisons. Second, we can change the law and how defendants are sentenced. If we build further jail structures, American citizens will be required to shell out more tax dollars. The problem with this solution is two-fold: Citizens will be taxed twice: once for building jail structures and once more to support jailed citizens with food, utilities, and programs.
The latter solution to jail overcrowding is changing laws and sentencing. We can loosen certain laws and restrictions to allow for more freedoms. This would reduce arrests, but may hinder societal progress. We could also provide less harsh sentencing for criminal charges. If, for instance, an individual is charged with a non-violent drug crime, sentencing could be rendered through house arrest instead of a jail sentence.
Regardless of the solution to jail overcrowding, there are pros and cons to all aforementioned changes. Jail overcrowding is a difficult problem with several dynamic variables involved. The bail system provides a small relief from jail overcrowding; but it is important to remember the true purpose of the bail right: Bail is in place to allow the criminally accused to retain their freedoms prior to receiving judgement from a court of law. If you’re further curious about the bail system, feel free to learn more by clicking here.