New ACLU study questions practicality of cash bond

Some are worried Nebraska will go too far by foregoing cash bond.
A study from the ACLU of Nebraska is shining light on the drawbacks of cash bond and how it may disproportionately affect Nebraskans.
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 8:06 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It happens hundreds of times every day in Nebraska’s county courts. Someone gets arrested and goes before a judge -- usually the next day. That judge hears the charges -- the reasons why they may or may not be dangerous -- or a flight risk -- and the likelihood they’ll show up to the next court appearance. That’s when bond is issued by the judge. If it’s $1,000 -- the suspect needs to come up with 10% -- in this example, $100 -- to get out of jail before trial.

“We’re not going to rest until freedom does not rely on how much money we have or have access to,” said Mindy Rush Chipman, legal director of the ACLU of Nebraska. Researchers found judges assign cash bail most of the time.

The study examined 500 cases in Douglas and Lancaster counties.

1 in 5 were given the option of not having to pay anything -- with the simple promise that they’d return to court when they were supposed to.

The ACLU’s policy advisor believes that has to happen more often -- eventually becoming the rule, not the exception.

“Too many Nebraskans with limited resources and Nebraskans of color are caught in this maze of rules and statutes and regulations with dead ends at every turn,” said Rose Godinez, senior policy advisor.

ACLUofficials believe judges need more training so that poor Nebraskans don’t get caught up in the cycle of incarceration.

“I think it’s irresponsible for the ACLU of Nebraska to not recognize what has happened across the country when these policies have been pushed,” said Tony Conner of the Omaha Police Officers’ Association.

He worries Nebraska will go too far -- allowing violent suspects a pass before trial -- only to see them re-arrested for something worse.

“What you’re going to see a spike in violent crime. The same thing we saw in California and NYC.  A real, heavier spike in non-violent crime like burglaries and theft of vehicles because no one is being held for bail.”

The ACLU of Nebraska now moves to phase two -- talking to the judges and implementing solutions that better take into account a suspect’s ability to pay.

Read the ACLU’s full report.