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Malcolm Jenkins' Criminal Justice Season

This week, the Eagles safety argues for cash bail reform

All season long, we’ve been comparing our criminal justice statistics to those in the cities that we play. This week, we play Carolina, and it’s worth zeroing in on one piece of data: The number of citizens incarcerated before being tried. This week finds that Carolina locks up 110 citizens before trial per 100,000 residents, compared to our 134 per 100,000.

These numbers are part of a trend, all pointing to the problem with our cash bail system. Across the country, jails are packed with people who have not been convicted of any crime but can’t afford bail. People are often forced to plead guilty just to end a case rather than sit in jail for months on end awaiting trial. Poor people and communities of color are especially harmed by these policies. Research shows that people are more likely to commit a crime upon release if they are held in jail for more than a couple of days. Bail disrupts employment and families in communities that are already struggling.

Many of us first became sensitized to the injustice of our cash bail system because of the case of Kalief Browder in New York. Then a 16 year-old child, Kalief was arrested on suspicion that he stole a backpack. Since he could not afford the $3,000 bail, Browder was held in solitary confinement at Rikers for three years without trial. Less than a year after his release, the trauma from his imprisonment contributed to his suicide.

The bail reform movement is advocating for eliminating cash bail and only incarcerating people who pose a clear risk to the community. Philadelphia received a $3.5 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation last year to enact policies that cut the prison population by 34 percent over three years. Thanks to reforms like a new initiative called early bail review, significant progress is being made; the city’s daily inmate population has been cut by nearly 20 percent since July of 2015.

Last week, City Council passed a resolution authorizing the Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform to hold hearings on establishing a bail fund, which would be a pot of money made up of charitable contributions that defendants who can’t afford bail can access. Meanwhile, a group of local activists—including #No215Jail, Sankofa Community Empowerment and Frontline Dads—have just launched a Philadelphia Community Bail Fund that is now accepting donations from the public.

A bail fund is a good thing, but we still have a lot of work to do. Advocacy is needed at the national, state, and local level to put pressure on legislators and prosecutors to realize that keeping people locked up only because they can’t afford to get out is unjust—and doesn’t make us safer.

Philadelphia

Eagles

vs

Carolina

Panthers

Homicides per 1,000 residents

.18

Panthers

Homicides per 1,000 residents

.05

Violent crime per 1,000 residents

10.3

Panthers

Violent crime per 1,000 residents

6.93

Marijuana decriminalization

Yes

Eagles

Marijuana decriminalization

No

Police involved shootings

23

Panthers

Police involved shootings

12

People in jail per 100,000 residents

448

Panthers

People in jail per 100,000 residents

132

% police of color /
% population of color

43.2/55

Eagles

% police of color /
% population of color

22.8/55.8

People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents

134

Panthers

People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents

110

# juveniles sentenced to life without parole

307

Panthers

# juveniles sentenced to life without parole

7

Upcoming Games:

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For more information on this data, see the Criminal Justice Season Explained page.

Note: Incarceration numbers are calculated by county, which in Philadelphia is the same borders as the city. For Carolina, we use Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located.

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