Vermont bill would create study group to eliminate cash bail

By Brent Addleman | The Center Square

A nonprofit constitutional rights group is throwing its support behind a Vermont House bill that could put an end to cash bail.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont is backing House Bill 88, an act relating to reducing the imposition of cash bail in the state’s judicial system. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, D-Windham, who serves on the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions.

The bill was read for the first time in the state’s House of Representatives on Tuesday and was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

Falko Schilling, advocacy director at the ACLU of Vermont, said the bill is a step in the right direction.

“Decisions about bail should be based solely on whether someone poses a serious threat to others — not about how much money they have. The ACLU of Vermont strongly supports efforts to end cash bail in Vermont,” Schilling said in a statement to The Center Square.

Schilling went on to say the organization is supportive of finding ways to better the justice system in the state.

“At a time when Vermont is incarcerating record numbers of people waiting for trial,” Schilling said, “we need to be asking what we can do to safely put fewer people behind bars. [House Bill 88] helps Vermont move another step closer to a smarter criminal legal system that is humane and fair for all. We look forward to supporting this bill in the Legislature this year.”

The elimination of cash bail is widely supported throughout the state. Similar bills are in front of elected officials in Illinois and Wisconsin. In Illinois, a court battle is currently unfolding over the issue.

The Ethan Allen Institute, a free market think tank, did not respond to requests for comment from The Center Square.

The bill, if enacted, would prevent the use of cash bail in cases where a defendant has been charged with a misdemeanor. The bill also would require the creation of a work group aimed at developing recommendations to eliminate the cash bail practice in the state.

If enacted, the bill would also mandate the state’s Department of Corrections to provide reports detailing racial data on pretrial detainees and require the judicial system to establish and implement a system that would notify those charged with criminal offenses about upcoming court hearings.

Bonds, according to the bill, are extended to a person charged with a criminal offense, or by a witness in a criminal prosecution, who is to appear before a judge in instances where the offense would be punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Under Section 2 of the proposed legislation, a group consisting of the Office of Attorney General, Office of the Public Defender, Department of State’s attorneys and sheriffs, along with the judicial branch, the Center for Crime Victim Services, and the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to work collaboratively to identify conditions that would be required to move to eliminate the use of cash bail.

The purpose of the workgroup, according to the bill, would be to mitigate the risk of flight from prosecution. The findings would be reported to the General Assembly on or before Dec. 1.

If enacted, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2025.

Image courtesy of Josh Estey/AusAID/Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Vermont bill would create study group to eliminate cash bail

  1. It’s not humane and fair for all if you let criminals out to harass and attack innocent people.
    It is insane, actually.

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