Obama Administration Declares It Unconstitutional to Jail People Who Can't Afford Bail

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The Department of Justice publicly criticized U.S prison practices that disproportionately affect people of color.

The U.S. Department of Justice is taking action against the long-running practice of jailing individuals who are unable to afford bail.

Taking its cue from the Obama Administration's declaration that holding court-tried people who can't afford bail is unconstitutional, the DOJ filed federal appeals court documents reiterating the position on Thursday.

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“Bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment and result in the unnecessary incarceration of numerous individuals who are presumed innocent,” the DOJ said in a brief. 

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Although the first public criticism of the bail industry by the DOJ, Thursday's filing addresses one of several questionable practices that the DOJ has highlighted in recent years in an effort to identify the grossly disproportionate rates at which people of color are subjected to unfair prison policies. The news also comes in the wake of the Justice Department recently announcing an indictment of the private prison industry and calling for their closure on the basis of high rates of both corruption and excessive force.

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