NEWLY ELECTED MICHIGAN PROSECUTOR WILL STOP SEEKING CASH BAIL
As prosecutors nationwide tackle bail reform, advocates press for more steps to take money out of detention decisions.
Eli Savit, the new chief prosecutor of Washtenaw County, Michigan (Ann Arbor), announced today that his office will no longer seek cash bail. His policy is the latest victory for advocates nationwide who are working to eliminate financial conditions for pretrial release. It comes on the heels of similar announcements in December by prosecutors in California and Virginia.
Savit, the county’s first new prosecutor in 28 years, ran on ending cash bail during his 2020 campaign. “One’s wealth must never play a role in their detention,” he told The Appeal: Political Report in August.
He is issuing a 20-page policy directive today that cites several reasons for opposing cash bail, including that debtors’ prisons are illegal in all 50 states and that cash bail stands at odds with the country’s legal principle of “presumption of innocence.”
“We’re very excited about Eli’s no cash bail policy,” said Twyla Carter, national policy director at The Bail Project. “We’d love to see other elected and appointed officials follow suit, and ultimately what we want to see is the decriminalization of poverty, mental health, and addiction.”
According to a state task force report released last year, people detained pretrial have comprised roughly half of Michigan’s jail population in recent decades, often because they couldn’t afford their bail. And this sparks great disparities in incarceration. Preliminary analysis by the ACLU of Michigan found that Black people in Washtenaw County were 8.55 times more likely than white people to be incarcerated because they couldn’t pay bail.
These trends are not unique to Michigan. Nationwide Black and Latinx people are more likely to be incarcerated pretrial than whites charged with similar crimes, and nearly half a million legally innocent people sit in local jails every day, according to an analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative.