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Commonwealth of Virginia

General Assembly

June 21, 2018

Honorable Theo Stamos

Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney
1425 N. Courthouse Road
Arlington, VA 22201

Dear Ms. Stamos,

We write to urge you and your office to take steps to reform the system of cash bail bonds that
has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of low-income individuals and people of color.
We encourage you to replace this system with a pretrial release system that is based more on the
severity of the crime and the defendant’s perceived public safety and flight risk, rather than the
ability to pay.

The current system of cash bail is broken in that it conditions the pretrial release of individuals
on the ability to pay, violating the principle of the presumption of innocence that is foundational
to our criminal justice system. In 2012, a report found that in Virginia, up to 92% of defendants
being detained for failure to post bail had been unable to pay a bail bond of $5,000 or less—
strongly indicating a disproportionate impact against the poor. In many states, average pretrial
detention rates can last as long as 55 days. That translates to weeks of missed income,
employment, or education before ever having been convicted of a crime. In many cases, just one
day of incarceration is enough to be fired from a job and lose employment entirely, potentially
jeopardizing the financial security of an entire family because of the inability to pay a bail bond.

In addition to the inherent unfairness of the current use of the cash bail system, it is also
ineffective and saddles localities with the significant financial burden of incarcerating people
who have not been convicted of any crimes and otherwise do not pose a threat to their
communities. Numerous studies have also shown that the use of cash bail can be coercive in
extracting plea deals from incarcerated individuals, skewing the proper application of justice. In
a report titled “Bail in America: Unsafe, Unfair, Ineffective,” the Pretrial Justice Institute
estimated the cost of pretrial incarceration at about $75 per day. In Arlington County, daily
incarceration can cost as much as $182 per day. By comparison, the same report estimated a cost
of only $7 a day to supervise an individual in their own community, as is common across the
country for pretrial services.

We have been encouraged by recent efforts from the office of Richmond’s Commonwealth’s
Attorney Michael Herring to end the recommendation of cash bail for defendants awaiting trial.
The guiding purpose of our criminal justice system must be to pursue justice and keep our
communities safe. The cash bail system as it exists undermines that mission and threatens the
financial security of the most underprivileged families in our community.


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Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District) Senator Dick Saslaw (35th District)

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Senator Adam Ebbin (30th District) Senator Barbara Favola (31st District)

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Senator Janet Howell (32nd District) Delegate Mark Levine (45th District)

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Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District) Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District)

Delegate Marcus Simon (53rd District)