More than 11 million people cycle in and out of America’s jails every year. The majority of people incarcerated in local jails have not been convicted of the charges against them. They are awaiting trial. Of those awaiting trial, many are incarcerated because they were unable to post even small amounts of bail. This means that the determining factor for people’s liberty is very often, the ability to pay. Nearly 70% of those incarcerated in jail are there for non-violent traffic, drug, property or public order offenses. Even very short stays in jail pretrial, significantly increase a person’s chances of being sent to prison. This adds up to a system that disproportionately punishes the poor, places innocent people behind bars for long periods of time—often causing them to lose their jobs among other hardships—and frequently results in serious prison time for those convicted of minor offenses.
How can you make a difference? Here are some ways that people are getting involved: