Since the Ferguson uprising in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a light on a range of American institutions, revealing their white supremacist origins and functions. In addition to police and the discriminatory mortgage market, cash bail is one of the most important of these institutions to be revealed and resisted. Community bail funds and others have begun organizing against a cash bail system that specifically targets the poor and exacts an especially high cost on communities of color.
Jails and legal systems across the country have begun conceding defeat on this issue in the face of fierce protest, large-scale bail fundraising and considerable moral outrage, leading to the end of cash bail in many jurisdictions. Indiana, for example, will end cash bail by 2020. The danger now, though, is that cash bail will be replaced with measures just as bad. The “risk-assessment” algorithms used to determine who may be released pre-trial and who must wait in jail, threaten to reproduce all the racism and class bias of money bail. Equally worrisome is electronic monitoring, in which people will be released from jails but subjected to a new, more intimate kind of surveillance via ankle shackles that they must wear everywhere. These devices can be painful, stigmatizing, and restrictive; are difficult to maintain; and still require intense human oversight. Despite the fact that there is no evidence they make a person more likely to show up to trial, their use is expanding enormously.
First, we hear from Emmet Sanders about his experience. Then, James Kilgore speaks with J. Johndi Harrell, an organizer against electronic monitoring in Philadelphia, explains this danger and the risk that electronic monitoring will expand the incarceration of millions.