Ask lawmakers to take an honest look at cash bail in Tennessee

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Tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Criminal Justice Subcommittee to create a committee to learn about best practices and common sense reforms to the money bail system.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up this bill on Tuesday, March 23 at 3 p/m/. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take it up on Wednesday, March 24 at 9 a.m..
(Last updated March 23, 2021. Check current bill status here.)

After someone is arrested, their ability to leave jail should not depend on how much money they have. But that is how cash bail works: if someone can afford to post bail, most of the time, they can leave jail. If they cannot afford to pay, they await trial behind bars. This period of incarceration – even if it ends in acquittal – may have devastating consequences for a defendant and their loved ones.

At any given time, about half of Tennessee’s jail population are pre-trial detainees who have not been convicted of anything. Black and Brown people make up a disproportionate share of this population, and it is taxpayers who must pay millions each year to lock away pre-trial detainees, many of whom have not been charged with a violent offense.

Tennessee gives judges wide latitude to set bail, but publishes little information on how bail is set – and how it impacts defendants – by jurisdiction. Ultimately, we’re fighting for an end to cash bail. The bail system is unfair, and studies show that eliminating cash bail has little impact on courtroom appearance rates. In the meantime, we encourage the state to fully assess the impacts of this system on Tennesseans.

SB 1438/HB 420 would create a bipartisan legislative committee to assess laws, rules, policies, and procedures related to cash bail, and explore the consequences of our approach. An honest look at cash bail in Tennessee will demonstrate the injustices of tying incarceration to one’s financial status, and this committee could serve as a starting point for meaningful bail reform in the future.

Please call or email the following legislators and urge them to vote YES on SB 1438/HB 420.

Senate Judiciary Committee members:

Sen. Jon Lundberg District 4 615-741-5761
Sen. Mike Bell District 9 615-741-1946
Sen. Todd Gardenhire District 10 615-741-6682
Sen. Dawn White District 13 615-741-6853
Sen. John Stevens District 24 615-741-4576
Sen. Kerry Roberts District 25 615-741-4499
Sen. Sara Kyle District 30 615-741-4167
Sen. Paul Rose District 32 615-741-1967
Sen. Katrina Robinson District 33 615-741-2509

House Criminal Justice Subcommittee members:

Rep. Bill Beck 615-741-3229
Rep. Michael Curcio 615-741-3513
Rep. Clay Doggett 615-741-7476
Rep. Andrew Farmer 615-741-4419
Rep. Bruce Griffey 615-741-6804
Rep. Dan Howell 615-741-7799
Rep. G.A. Hardaway 615-741-5625
Rep. William Lamberth 615-741-1980
Rep. Debra Moody 615-741-3774
Rep. Lowell Russell 615-741-3736
Rep. Jerry Sexton 615-741-2534
2021-03-23T13:31:27-05:00 March 23rd, 2021|Categories: Take Action|