A report recently released by the Kentucky Center of Economic Policy found that the use of cash bail ranges wildly throughout the state, and the center is calling for bail reform.

In the report, Ashley Spalding, senior policy analyst at the KCEP, explains data pulled from Kentucky's Administrative Office of the Courts.

"The data suggests an arbitrary system of justice based on location," Spalding states.

For example, in Christian County 57% of court cases have non-financial bonds, according to the AOC data. In Trigg County, that number drops to 41% and drops even lower -- 18% -- in Todd County.

On the other hand, 35% of cases in Christian County have financial conditions that lead to a pretrial release, and 47% of cases in Trigg County and 32% of cases in Todd County have financial conditions that lead to a pretrial release.

"The consequences of pretrial detention for individuals, families and communities when a person cannot afford bail are devastating and far-reaching -- and important context for a conversation about Kentucky's low and disparate rates of non-financial pretrial release," Spalding states.

The report claims that the bail system is unfair to low-income individuals. If an individual cannot afford the cash bail, that person would lose out on income or be unable to provide care-taking services to a family member.

It also claims that through "historic, structural barriers," people of color in the state bear the brunt of the current pretrial model.

"Defendants are also more likely to plead guilty … when detained (in) pretrial, in order to be able to return to their homes and communities," Spalding states.

The center is using the report to call for bail reform in Kentucky.

"A mounting body of research shows that pretrial decisions have a tremendous impact on individuals, families and communities," Spalding states. "And it's costly to local governments to detain individuals pretrial, contributing to the state's jail overcrowding problems and local budget challenges."

The report claims that although the majority of people arrested in the state are subject to financial conditions for release, the price is "an insurmountable barrier for many."

The KCEP also asks that pretrial practices in the state become more consistent from county to county.

"…dramatically inconsistent pretrial practices between counties point to the arbitrariness of our current pretrial practices and the need for legislative pretrial reforms," Spalding states. "More Kentuckians should be released pretrial, and improving statewide standards will help address these local disparities."

Reach Jon Russelburg at 270-887-3241 or jrusselburg@kentuckynewera.com.

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