The number of Americans incarcerated before standing trial in a court of law – over 750,000 inmates – has never been higher. On any given day, nearly 70 percent of the national jail population is awaiting judgement – locked up without ever having been convicted of a crime.
The US is one of only two countries in the world that allows private companies to bail people out of jail at a profit. Bail bond companies earn $2 billion annually by getting people out for a fee. The majority of the accused remain behind bars because they cannot afford to pay for their release.
Proponents of commercial bail say it provides a public service at zero cost to taxpayers. But what are the ultimate costs of the pay-for-freedom, pretrial process?
Fault Lines travels to California, Maryland, and New York to examine how money determines the fates of those awaiting trial by the criminal justice system.
Fault Lines can be seen on Al Jazeera English each week at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630.