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In Texas, Cash Bail System, Jail Conditions Punish Poor Women

In Texas, money can make a difference in how much time people who are legally presumed innocent sit behind bars awaiting the outcome of criminal cases, reports The Texas Tribune. The price of bail is often an insurmountable obstacle for poor defendants, and lawsuits targeting Dallas and Harris County jails unsuccessfully alleged that the practice of cash bail was unconstitutional because it discriminates against low-income individuals. Texas in 2021 limited the use of cashless bonds, meaning most defendants must pay for their release. While judges are supposed to consider someone’s ability to pay when they set bail, lawsuits like the unsuccessful ones in Dallas and Harris County claim that doesn’t always happen.

About three in every four Texans in county jails are awaiting the resolution of their cases, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the state agency that oversees local jails. That number has surpassed pre-pandemic levels and is 14% higher than in January 2017. The wait is harder for women because jails often lack necessary resources like pregnancy care and mental health treatment, which women are more likely to require than men. Incarcerated women have higher rates of past trauma experiences than men, creating a large demand for mental health services in jails, including therapy and medication. It’s one reason why nonviolent drug and property offenses are the most common crimes women commit. Local jails often struggle to meet those needs for women held before their cases are resolved.


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