In November 2019, Civil Rights Corps sued the sheriff and court officials in Alamance County. In partnership with the ACLU of North Carolina and the ACLU Criminal Law Reform project, we are challenging a money bail system that keeps poor people detained in jail because they can’t afford money bail while letting others charged with the same offense pay for their release.
For our clients in this case and the hundreds of class members they represent, being locked in jail prior to trial has devastating consequences. One of our clients was scheduled to start a new job after five months of unemployment, but missed her first day of work because she could not pay a $5,500 money bail. Another plaintiff relies on multiple medications daily, but has not received them since being locked in jail because he could not pay a $2,500 bail. Another plaintiff lives in a sober facility where she had to wait one month for a bed. She fears that she will lose her housing and her job while being kept in jail.
The money bail system in Alamance County is racist, pervasive, and it’s only getting worse. Black residents are incarcerated at a rate four times higher than white residents. The jail incarceration rate for Latinx residents is 1.4 times higher than the rate for white residents. Alamance county judges require money bail for pretrial release in 88 percent of all release orders. Over the last 30 years, the Alamance County jail population has grown 1,425 percent – or more than 14 times – driven largely by the number of people detained in jail pretrial.