Kentucky High Court Asked To Fix ‘Badly Broken’ Bail System

alling Kentucky’s pretrial release system “badly broken,” a state agency has asked the state Supreme Court to set “clear constitutional rules” to fix the process used to collect bail money from the accused.

In a petition to the state’s highest court, the Department of Public Advocacy raised numerous challenges to pretrial release practices across the state. The petition said Supreme Court action is needed to protect defendants’ rights to reasonable bail.

The request comes amid Gov. Andy Beshear’s push for state lawmakers to pass sweeping criminal-justice reforms. The new Democratic governor says overcrowded prisons and jails are soaking up large amounts of taxpayer funds that are needed to support education and health care.

Kentucky’s overcrowded county jails are clogged with people who can’t afford to post bail.

The Public Advocacy Department’s petition was submitted Friday on behalf of 10 clients. Five of them are in jail with cash bail amounts they have not been able pay, meaning if they had more money they would be free, the agency said. Those 10 defendants represent hundreds of others who are either being held pending trial or spent time locked up until they were able to post bail, the agency said.

“Kentucky’s system of pretrial release is badly broken,” the department’s 39-page petition said. “Almost all jurisdictions impose money bail even in cases involving minor offenses, and that money bail often effectively denies the defendant the presumption of innocence.

“What’s worse, the application of this money bail practice varies wildly across Kentucky, such that the county which prosecutes the defendant may have a significant impact in whether the defendant remains incarcerated,” the petition added.

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