Washington Joins Nationwide Campaign for Pretrial Reform

News Release: 
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Thousands of people in Washington are routinely incarcerated before standing trial because they cannot come up with the money for bail. For the past year, the ACLU of Washington has called for pretrial reform. Today, Washington State judges announced a partnership with the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) to evaluate the state’s pretrial justice system. 

The ACLU of Washington applauds this partnership with PJI’s 3DaysCount Campaign. 3DaysCount is a nationwide initiative that highlights the harmful consequences that result when people who can’t afford to pay bail are forced to await their trial behind bars, and develops commonsense solutions. Washington joins two other states and Guam already partnering with 3DaysCount.   

A statewide task force will also evaluate Washington’s pretrial practices and recommend ways to improve them. The newly formed Washington Pretrial Reform Task Force is comprised of the Washington Supreme Court’s Minority and Justice Commission, the Superior Court Judges’ Association, and the District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association, as well as the ACLU-WA and others.
“In America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Today judges from around Washington have taken an important step toward addressing the fundamental unfairness of a system that reserves freedom for those who can pay for it,” said Jaime Hawk, Legal Strategy Director for the ACLU of Washington’s Smart Justice Campaign.

Bail reform is a top priority for the ACLU-WA and a key part of its Smart Justice Campaign to reduce mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

In September, the ACLU-WA issued “No Money, No Freedom: The Need for Bail Reform in Washington,” a position paper that describes the serious and persistent problems that occur when accused people are forced to await their trials behind bars. Because people who are locked up are less able to assist their attorneys in preparing a defense, being in jail seriously harms their prospects in court and may ultimately prevent a trial from even occurring. The loss of income, possible loss of employment and housing, and stresses on one’s family that accompany incarceration have induced many defendants to accept a plea bargain to get out.

The unfairness of bail disproportionately affects individuals with limited financial resources, people of color, and people with certain disabilities. They are more likely to be held behind bars before trial, and this leads to a greater likelihood that they will be convicted and incarcerated.

“It is time to reform pretrial and bail practices in Washington. Doing so will increase the fairness, integrity, and effectiveness of our criminal justice system,” said Hawk.