The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is urging Escambia County to lower or eliminate monetary bail for some defendants. The ACLU believes the county should rely on pretrial release programs instead.
Escambia County jails almost 1,800 people—so many in fact that it relies on nearby Walton County to handle overflow. ACLU attorney Benjamin Stevenson says about 600 of those inmates are eligible for pretrial release—they just can’t afford bail.
“It’s probably not a surprise that many people in the Escambia county jail are there because they are too poor to pay monetary bail,” Stevenson says.
That crowds the jail and drains county coffers. What’s more, Stevenson argues, it may not actually be making the county any safer.
“If a person pays the 10,000 dollars, is released and goes out and commits a new crime, but comes back to court, they get their 10,000 dollars back,” Stevenson says. “Which raises the question how has that 10,000 dollars well how did that 10,000 dollar monetary bail help manage the risk that the person was going to commit a new crime? And the short answer, it doesn’t.”
According to the most recent Department of Corrections data Escambia County jails 5.4 people per thousand. The state average is less than half that at just 2.6.