Questions remain for proposal to eliminate cash bail for non-vio - CBS46 News

Questions remain for proposal to eliminate cash bail for non-violent crimes in Atlanta

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

The Atlanta City Council is still wrestling with a new measure to eliminate cash bail for non-violent crimes. There appears to be plenty of support for the bill, but there are also plenty of questions.

As one of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' biggest priorities, the measure is moving through the council at lightning speed, despite a few bumps along the way.

The idea of "no cash bail" has been hanging around City Hall for a couple of years, but the new bill is already headed to the full council on Monday.

Critics accuse Atlanta's courts of being a two-tiered legal system that makes poverty a crime. That's why abolishing cash bail for non-violent offenders was a critical part of Bottoms' progressive agenda.

"We are directing, as a law, that if someone is coming over to corrections for a non-violent misdemeanor, that we do not want them incarcerated simply because they are unable to pay out," said Robin Shahar from the city attorney's office. 

Homeless offenders spent an average of 10 days behind bars because they couldn't raise bond, so now the city wants the jail to be able to release them for minor crimes, as well as the courts.

But what exactly should those crimes be?

"What is the real intent there? Do we have specific offenses in mind, or are we looking at the facts behind the incident of the arrest?" asked city council member Jennifer Ide. 

The courts also don't run everyday, adding to release days. That's one of the changes the city solicitor wants to make immediately.

The mayor wants to make sure that defendants get wraparound services like shelter or substance abuse treatment, instead of just putting them back on the street.

"Effective representation doesn't just end when the case ends. It extends as long as it has to, even if the court situation is concluded.," said public defender Kenneth Days III.

CBS46 was the first to tell you that Atlanta municipal courts have already changed their standard operating procedures when it comes to cash bail for minor crimes. They are now releasing non-violent offenders on signature bonds. This new ordinance will make that law.

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