Hundreds of people in cities throughout the US have been arrested for participating in Black Lives Matter protests.  In Chicago, a judge set one protestor’s bail at $350,000. Bail is the money or pledge of property he’ll have to give the court to get out of jail while he waits for his hearing. It’s a guarantee or promise that if released from jail, he’ll return to court for all of his court hearings. If he appears for all of his hearings, he’ll get the money he posted for bail back, whether he’s found guilty or innocent. If he misses a court appearance, he’ll forfeit the money he posted as bail and a warrant could be issued for his arrest.

“There really are two systems of justice. There’s one for people who can make bail, and one for people who can’t.”

– Josh Saunders, Public Defender

Of course, with his bail set so high, it’s possible he’ll get help raising enough money to post bail.

But what happens is a person is arrested and they can’t make bail? What if they don’t have enough money or access to property to make bail?  Each year some 45,000 people in New York City alone are arrested and taken to jail who can’t make bail. That means they either stay in jail until their trial takes place, which can be weeks or months down the road, or they plead guilty.

This summer Life of the Law is presenting some of the best and the brightest new voices in investigative reporting and audio production. This week’s feature episode Bail or Bust is from Ariel Ritchin of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Ariel has taken a hard look at what it takes to make bail.



Bail or Bust was reported by Ariel Ritchin and edited by Kerry Donahue and Nancy Mullane, with production support from Jonathan Hirsch and Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle. Ceil Muller of KQED Radio in San Francisco was our engineer. Special thanks to WNYC and New York 1. Music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions and K2.

Full Transcript of Bail or Bust





This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Law and Society Association, the Proteus Fund, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Bail or Bust was sponsored by The Great Courses

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