Cash Bail Bond Resolution

Cash Bail Bond Resolution

May 22, 2023

To: The NC House of Representatives, The NC Senate and the Governor

From: First Presbyterian Church, Durham, NC

Copy: Ed Johnson, Stated Clerk of New Hope Presbytery

Dear Legislators and Governor Cooper,

Article XI, section 4 of the Constitution of North Carolina reads as follows:

“Welfare policy….

Beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate, and the orphan is one of the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state….”

However, the State of North Carolina maintains a cash bail bond system that systematically exploits “the poor, the unfortunate,” in direct violation of the “first duty” as claimed in the NC Constitution.

The Constitution of the State of North Carolina continues to look to a Christian moral compass especially, but not exclusively, in regard to the treatment of the poor. In that regard, Christian Scripture clearly calls us to extend special compassion and consideration for the poor and needy.

The Constitution of the State of North Carolina continues to look to a Christian moral compass especially, but not exclusively, in regard to the treatment of the poor. In that regard, Christian Scripture clearly calls us to extend special compassion and consideration for the poor and needy.

a. “Open your hand to the poor and needy…” (Deut. 15:11).

b. “You shall not withhold the wages of the poor and needy laborers… You shall pay their wages daily because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them, otherwise they might cry out to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt” (Deut. 24: 14-15).

c. “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him” (Proverbs 14:31).

d. “The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people. It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses” (Isaiah 3:14).

e. Jeremiah contrasts the good King Josiah and the bad King Jehoiakim. The only criteria distinguishing them was that the poor benefited from the government of Josiah while Jehoiakim instead invested in cedar siding and gold trimming in his luxurious house. Jeremiah declares harsh condemnation on Jehoiakim: “Are you (Jehoiakim) a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father (Josiah) eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy. Is not this to know me? says the Lord. But your eyes and heart are only on your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, for practicing oppression and violence” (Jer. 22:15-17).

f. Jesus implores his disciples to benefit the poor, and to never exploit them for personal gain.

g. Jesus “unrolled the scroll and found the place that it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…’” (Luke 4: 17-19).

h. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled” (Luke 6:20-21).

i. “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40).

j. “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees his brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 John 3:17-18).

k. “They (the apostles in Jerusalem) asked only one thing, that we remember the poor…” (Galatians 2:10).

l. “But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you to court?” (James 2:6).

Fidelity to the NC Constitution then requires changes to the current cash bail system which exploits the poor. Considerable empirical evidence demonstrates that the cash bail system is inequitable and ineffective. The cash bail system requires pretrial defendants to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to keep from going to jail. Because of economic challenges, a significant portion of these arrestees lack the 10%-15% non-refundable premium a bail agent charges, so they end up spending weeks and months in jail awaiting trial. Courts, often secured through bail bondsmen, typically result in low-income individuals agreeing to usurious borrowing terms to obtain funds. Several municipalities and states throughout the United States, and a few places in North Carolina, have successfully enacted other approaches to pretrial requirements for defendants accused of misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.

Additionally, the current bail bond system is more expensive financially to the State than the proposed changes offered by the NC House Bill 271.  Enacting NC House Bill 271 will save the state money.

Multiple studies, including the work of Jessica Smith, W.R. Kenyan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at UNC School of Government, report the need for change based on four problems with the current system: public safety (wealthier individuals can buy their way out of incarceration); costs to taxpayers; fairness; and racial and ethnic disparities.

WHEREAS, the vast majority of the jail population increase since 2000 was caused by the detention of individuals prior to trial (pretrial) of which 60% to 70% were classified nonviolent minimum-security;

WHEREAS, the Class Three misdemeanor cases addressed in NC House Bill 271 do not constitute a risk of flight;

WHEREAS, at least 70% of people held in local jails are not convicted of any crime;

WHEREAS, the inability to make cash bail extracts an untold human cost on the accused due to their loss of employment, housing and, often times, family support;

WHEREAS, there are proven instances of inadequate health care for incarcerated persons, death and injury suffered by incarcerated persons;

WHEREAS, bail set for people of color exceeds that for whites by 35%;

WHEREAS, three out of four criminal cases in state trial courts are for misdemeanors that, if proved, would result in fines and/or less than a year in jail;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Durham, NC petitions the NC legislature to pass NC House Bill 271.  Additionally, the First Presbyterian Church petitions the Presbytery of New Hope to endorse the passage of NC House Bill 271.  The Session encourages the Presbytery to encourage each church session in the Presbytery of New Hope to adopt this resolution and to contact their state representatives and Senators.  Furthermore, that the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery convey this stand to every NC Representative, Senator, and the Governor.  The Stated Clerk is directed to communicate this resolution to the Presbyteries of Western North Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Salem, and Charlotte for consideration and adoption.