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New community fund gives options to nonviolent offenders who can’t afford bail

This piece originally appeared on WFTV Channel 9.


Some nonviolent offenders in Orange and Osceola counties who can’t afford bail now have another option besides sitting behind bars.

The new community bail forum is being run by the Morgan & Morgan law firm, and pays the bail nonviolent offenders can’t afford.

“If everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs about this, what a difference we could make,” said founder Matt Morgan.

Right now, about 80% of inmates at the Orange County Jail are awaiting trial. The first thing this partnership will do, is identify those low-level offenders affected by the “poverty penalty,” meaning they’re only behind bars because they can’t afford to post pond to secure their release from custody.

In an unprecedented 9th Circuit partnership with the public defender and state attorney’s office, Morgan & Morgan staff members will first identify and post the bail of local low-level offenders who have been in jail more than three days.

“When we reduce the number of people who are being detained pretrial to only those who are dangerous who can’t control their behavior, the community wins with more money for schools, roads, parks, social programs, health and welfare,” said Bob Wesley, 9th Circuit public defender.

Founder Matt Morgan said once the person is out of jail, someone from the team will check on what the person needs from there.

Additional support for the program came today from former Chief Judge Frederick Lauten, who said, “Pretrial decisions based on risk, not wealth ... provides greater protection to the community and eliminates wealth-based discrimination.”

The state attorney’s office plans a deeper dive into other policies such as no bond for low-level offenders on probation violations.

“In the end, the goal is to have safer communities that rest upon a foundation of equality and fairness,” said 9th Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Research by the Justice Policy Institute found that, the longer people are incarcerated, the more likely they are to recommit a crime when they’re finally released.


This piece originally appeared on WFTV Channel 9.

   

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