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Politics & Policy

Biden Administration: This Crime Wave Is the Perfect Time to Abolish Cash Bail

An NYPD officer arrests a demonstrator during May Day rallies in New York City in 2013. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The Biden administration is sufficiently worried about rising crime rates to focus upon the issue this week. But they’re not quite sufficiently worried about rising crime rates to reconsider their commitment to ending cash bail, as Biden promised on the campaign trail: 

Cash bail is the modern-day debtors’ prison. The cash bail system incarcerates people who are presumed innocent. And, it disproportionately harms low-income individuals. Biden will lead a national effort to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system by putting in place, instead, a system that is fair and does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process.

New York City’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, attributed the surge in violent crime in 2020 in part to the city ending cash bail, contending it creates a revolving door for violent offenders:

NYPD officers have made a “staggering number of gun arrests” over the past three months, Shea said, praising his rank-and-file. But those caught with guns don’t stay in jail for any length of time, he said.

“Three days later, four days later, those people are back on the street committing gun violence,” Shea told NY1, blasting New York’s new laws that prevent incarceration for misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.

Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, cash bail is more than just “the modern-day debtors’ prison” and that its primary effect is to “incarcerate people who are presumed innocent”? Apparently, the Biden administration sees no reason to rethink or reexamine their past position or characterization.

Q: Given everything that is going on — with guns, without guns — does the President still think that this is the best time to end cash bail?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think I have a — any new position on that for you, but I’m happy to check and see if there’s anything more to report.

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