What: Cash Bail Coalition Statement
Contact: Cassie Chee (she/her), Director of Community Organizing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JUNE 10, 2022
COALITION OF ORGANIZATIONS RELEASE STATEMENT AFFIRMING NEED FOR CASH BAIL REFORMS
HONOLULU – The call for Governor Ige’s veto of HB 1567, a modest bail reform bill that passed the legislature last month, by the four county mayors, Prosecuting Attorney Alm and opponents of bail reform is based on misinformation and false claims about cash bail. In response to the misinformation, Faith Action for Community Equity in coalition with 30 organizations across the State, including Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center, Community Alliance on Prisons, ACLU of Hawaiʻi, Papa Ola Lōkahi, League of Women Voters, Americans for Democratic Action, Maui Economic Opportunity, Going Home Hawai'i and others, have released a joint statement that clarifies the facts about the bail system, bail reform, and its impact on public safety.
“We came together as a coalition to counter the dissemination of misinformation and harmful narratives about cash bail and the people it impacts,” said Lee Curran, Vice President of Laity at Faith Action. “We are committed to transformative justice for the long term, including bail reform and putting community supports and accountability in place to best facilitate the safety and well being of all members of our communities.”
“Many public officials and opponents calling for a veto had months to engage in the legislative process, yet failed to do so,” said Carrie Ann Shirota, Policy Director at the ACLU of Hawaiʻi. “More puzzling is that representatives from the Police, Prosecutors, and Attorney General’s office participated in the Hawaiʻi Criminal Pretrial Task Force and jointly recommended expanding alternatives to pretrial detention and eliminating the use of money bail for low-level offenses, yet now they oppose this modest measure to challenge an unequal pretrial system.” Shirota also noted an analysis of HB1567 released by ACLU Hawaiʻi that highlights the minimal impact of the bill on pretrial populations due to the long list of exemptions.
“Investing time and resources into proven community-based solutions is what will keep our communities safe,” said Kylie Akiona, a co-facilitator of Faith Action’s Transformative Justice Taskforce. Serhenetee Tonumaipea, a member of the Faith Action Taskforce who also participates in the Bail Reform Project at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa echoed this sentiment, adding, “The broad support for this coalition statement speaks to the change we all agree is needed in the cash bail system.”
STATEMENT OF THE CASH BAIL COALITION
We, the undersigned organizations, are committed to the reform of Hawaiʻi’s cash bail system, which criminalizes people on the basis of their socioeconomic status, undermines the presumption of innocence, harms families through physical separation and the disruption of housing and employment, and destroys the promise of our representative democracy.
We affirm the assertion of the American Bar Association that the key function of bail is to ensure future court appearances: “Bail is not a fine. It is not supposed to be used as punishment. The purpose of bail is simply to ensure that defendants will appear for trial [and] pretrial hearings for which they must be present.”
No one should be deprived of their liberty because they are too poor to pay cash bail. Women, who are generally the custodial parent of their children, are often subject to pre-trial incarceration for the non-violent felony of drug “promotion” of non-cannabis drugs. Current language in Hawaiʻi’s statutes conflates drug possession for personal use, including unusable traces and residue, with “promotion.” These women fall outside of the scope of HB 1567.
Roughly half of the population of Hawaiʻi’s persistently overcrowded jails are pre-trial detainees. The cost to maintain one person for one day in the Department of Public Safety exceeds $200. The cost of one month of pre-trial incarceration is well over $6,000. This is not a judicious use of public resources.
Cash bail reform is far from a novel concept. Federal criminal courts eliminated cash bail in 1984. A number of states have embarked upon reforms of cash bail, including Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, Indiana, California, and New York.
HB 1567 is a modest reform measure. Yet recent media coverage of the bill has featured sensationalist language that bears little relation to the bill’s contents. Those charged with the public trust, including elected officeholders, should refrain from language that perpetuates stigma and de-humanizes those with little or no economic means. This kind of language is incompatible with the character and aspirations of Hawaiʻi and its people.
Public discussion of bail reform should continually acknowledge the inherent worth and dignity of every person in our communities and include the perspectives and experiences of those impacted by Hawaiʻi’s overuse of pre-trial incarceration.
ACLU OF HAWAI’I
AMERICANS FOR DEMOCRATIC ACTION HAWAI'I CHAPTER
BAIL REFORM PROJECT - UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI'I MĀNOA
COMMON CAUSE HAWAI’I
COMMUNITY ALLIANCE ON PRISONS
DRUG POLICY FORUM OF HAWAI’I
‘EKOLU MEA NUI
FAITH ACTION FOR COMMUNITY EQUITY
GOING HOME HAWAIʻI
HAHOKO (HE ALA HOU O KE OLA INC.)
HAPA (HAWAI'I ALLIANCE FOR PROGRESSIVE ACTION)
HAWAI'I FRIENDS OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
HAWAIʻI HEALTH AND HARM REDUCTION CENTER
HAWAIʻI STATE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
HE HO'OMAKA HOUANA'O PUNA
KA IPU HA’A
THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF HAWAI'I
LIFE OF THE LAND
MEN OF PA’A
MEO (MAUI ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY)
NĀ PUA KŪ'Ē - HAWAI'I DISSENTERS
NATIVE HAWAIIAN LEGAL CORPORATION
OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER
PAPA OLA LŌKAHI
PARTNERS IN CARE
PONO HAWAI'I INITIATIVE
PRISON EDUCATION PROJECT- UNIVERSITY OF HAWAIʻI MĀNOA
SURJ (SHOWING UP FOR RACIAL JUSTICE) HAWAI’I
YPDA (YOUNG PROGRESSIVES DEMANDING ACTION)
Faith Action for Community Equity is a grassroots, interfaith 501(c)3 non-profit organization driven by a deep spiritual commitment to improving the quality of life for our members and all the people of Hawai’i. Through our common values and collective power, we address the root causes of social justice challenges facing our community.