Advocacy group finds racial imbalance in Lancaster County cash bail


LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — An advocacy group released a report saying they found inconsistencies when bail is set in Lancaster County.

Adding cash bail hurts those who are economically disadvantaged.

The Central Penn Equity Project says 24% of the people required to post monetary bail were black, but black people only make up 5% of Lancaster County’s population.

To compare, 57% of monetary bail requirements were for white people. But they make up 89% of the population.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, John Maina, founder of Central Penn Equity Project says it hasn’t been proactive.

“Now we have the chance to be proactive and come up with a strategy to keep the inmate population down,” said Maina.

He says people shouldn’t be jailed just because they can’t pay.

“Who is getting locked up is the people who don’t have the access to the wealth to cover that bail so this goes across all race lines, gender lines,” he added. “We want to make sure that everyone that is disadvantaged economically is being spoken for right now.”

So he asked the Lancaster County Prison Board to make three changes. The first — anyone receiving a cash bail has a lawyer present.

“We asked them to document any time a DJ gives a cash bail and we asked them to do a moratorium on non-felony charges going forward while they can go over more documentation, more evidence so that they can come up with a better, more improvised plan for pre-trial.”

But not everyone is on board.

“A lot of these folks that are sitting out on misdemeanor charges, where they can’t post cash bail is because they were out on cash bail, they committed a new offense while they were out and so we now have to look at that as a problem,” said Court of Common pleas Judge, Dennis Reinaker.

Reinaker says the biggest reason for cash bail is to make sure that person is going to show up to court.

“A lot of these people who are out there on cash bail are there because they missed two, three, four court appearances and sooner or later,” added Reinaker. “That’s your only alternative because the system has to operate.”

Maina says he will continue to work with county officials.

The Lancaster County Prison Board also took comment on plans to expand the facility.

People raised concerns about the location, and other issues with the current prison,  including the lack of air conditioning, parking and office space.

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