Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey this week proposed an alternative to the cash bail system that keeps people accused of low-level crimes incarcerated because they can't afford to get out.
At a press conference held at All Square, the south Minneapolis grilled cheese restaurant that is staffed by former offenders, Frey said he wants cash bail to be scrapped for minor crimes, proposing $100,000 of funding for alternative measures.
What would this alternative be?
Rather than requiring defendants pay a cash bail to be released prior to their court hearing, Frey wants to use the funding to add social workers who would "develop a release plan" for certain offenders.
These social workers would then work with the suspects to ensure they make their court dates, and work with them on some of the issues that led to the crime in the first place, connecting them with the relevant social services.
The alternative measure would be applied to those arrested for misdemeanor offenses in the City of Minneapolis, except for those accused of domestic abuse or DWI.
If approved, Minneapolis would be the first jurisdiction in the state to offer an alternative to cash bail.
Why is he proposing this?
The idea behind cash bail is that suspects have a financial incentive to make their court dates, knowing they can recoup the money once they show up.
But some poverty-stricken suspects find it impossible to raise the bail money, and end up staying incarcerated until their court date, at a cost of $144 per night to the taxpayer.
Per KARE 11, the Minnesota Freedom Fund said that the median cost of cash bail is $150.
Replacing cash bail would save money in the long term, Frey argues, as well as reducing the potentially serious impact when someone is kept away from their families and jobs for the want of $150.
The proposed alternative is the work of Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal, whose office would contribute $25,000 of the total cost of the project.
"The size of your wallet should not determine how the criminal justice system treats you," Frey said.
"Under the cash bail system thousands of Minnesotans, including those in Minneapolis, suffer in jail before their day in court before they have been convicted of a crime."