Tell your legislator to oppose and vote NO on HB 1719 to protect Tennesseans' 14th Amendment right.

We don't need politicians pointing fingers about crime after it happens — we want real solutions that prevent crime before it happens. Yet, politicians are using bail reform as a scapegoat for the rise of crime, despite data-driven evidence from cities, counties, and states across the country – including Shelby County, that demonstrate that fair, constitutional bail practices are not linked to rising crime rates, and in fact, provide significant benefits for individuals, communities, and county budgets.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, January 30, legislators will be voting on HB 1719, which seeks to eliminate the consideration of a defendant's financial status when determining bail amounts.

This would be a clear violation of the 14th Amendment, as the bill would greenlight a patently unconstitutional system of wealth-based detention. HB1719 would disproportionately impact individuals who are unable to afford bail, thus challenging a fundamental principle of the Constitution, which states that everyone should be treated fairly and equally in the legal system despite characteristics such as race, gender, or financial status.

If HB 1719 were to pass, an individual's ability to pay would not be considered when bail is set, leaving those who cannot afford to pay detained indefinitely, even if they are not a flight or safety risk. Meanwhile, those who face the same charges but can afford to pay money bail are freed until trial.

The Constitution clearly states that wealth-based detention is prohibited. In addition, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that people have a basic right to freedom, and being kept in jail before a trial should be a carefully limited exception, not the norm. Freedom for the wealthy and punishment for poor people of all races violates the Constitution and disproportionately impacts Black people and people with disabilities, while doing nothing to address the systemic causes of crime.

All of us want to be safe and treated fairly; however, we don't have to choose between safety and justice: we can have both. This is only possible if we maintain a bail system that is evidence-based, fair, and constitutional.

Instead of scapegoating the Constitution and using divisive politics for political gain, our lawmakers should be addressing the root causes of crime – like poverty and lack of opportunity – so that we can build a foundation for a safer, fairer, and more prosperous future for all in Tennessee.


Representative John Gillespie





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