In October 2014, New York City erupted in outrage at the story of Kalief Browder. Browder spent three years in confinement awaiting trial for stealing a backpack. Browder–who was 16 when he was first sent to Rikers–tragically committed suicide in 2015. He was held at Rikers because, like many of the City’s most vulnerable residents, he could not post his $3,000 bail.
Money bail, even when set in the hundreds of dollars, is a hurdle that keeps many of the City’s least well-off residents behind bars–awaiting trial–for lengthy periods. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report on the City’s jail system notes that 87% of those who had bail set at $1,000 or less could not pay at their initial appearance, resulting in detention. According to former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals Jonathan Lippman, “[f]ar too many individuals awaiting trial who pose no risk to public safety are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to post the bail amount set by the courts.”
Read the rest on The Huffington Post, here.
The Institute for Justice recently released the second edition of its Policing for Profit report on the abuse of civil asset forfeiture. According to the report, the Keystone State “has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country.” The Institute for Justice gave Pennsylvania a D-, with only Massachusetts and North Dakota scoring worse.
The city of Philadelphia was especially bad, garnering special notice in the main body of the report for what is described as a “forfeiture machine” that serves as a cash cow for the city police, and district attorney’s office. As the report notes “between 2002 and 2013, forfeiture revenues were equivalent to nearly one-fifth of the Philadelphia district attorney’s budget.”
This low grade is tied to three main factors: the “low bar to forfeit,” with “no conviction required”; “the poor protections for innocent third-party property owners”; and the bad incentives created by the fact that “100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.”
Read the rest on Watchdog here.
Americans understand the importance of the principle of innocent until proven guilty. However, a problematic, growing government program turns this long-standing ideal on its head. Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to take personal property without even accusing individuals of a crime, much less proving them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
On Tuesday the Institute for Justice released Policing for Profit, a report that shows the growth in this abuse of power. Civil forfeiture does not just need to be curtailed—it needs to be ended.
Read the rest on CapX America here.