Knox County, TN: Bail Practice

On April 2, 2021, Civil Rights Corps and the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter to judges, the sheriff, public defender, and other officials in Knox County informing them that the organizations are prepared to bring a lawsuit against them unless the County’s pretrial practices are changed to comply with state and federal law. 

SPLC and CRC have spent the last 2.5 years investigating Knox County bail practices, including observing multiple initial appearances, arraignments, and preliminary hearings in front of magistrates, prosecutors, public defenders, and General Sessions Court judges. After reviewing the data, the organizations concluded that the County’s bail practices violate state and federal law by failing to hold constitutional bail hearings and jailing people pretrial simply because they can’t pay money bail. 

"We know that money bail has devastating impacts on individuals and communities, especially when it can take weeks, months, or even years before they can go to trial. Knox County’s bail practices stand in the way of that liberty – Tennesseans deserve better.” - Tara Mikkilineni, senior attorney at CRC

CRC and its partners are currently waiting to hear back from Knox County officials before deciding whether or not to bring litigation later in the year.