People jailed because of money bail are presumed innocent under the Constitution and are only jailed because they are too poor to pay the money required by the court. One out of every 28 children now has an incarcerated parent, over 90% of which are fathers.
Alachua County is surrounded by prisons, with over a dozen local, state and federal facilities in a 60 mile radius where tens-of-thousands of people are held in cages, underfed, abused, and forced to work with little or no pay. Most of these prisoners’ sentences started at a county jail, where they were faced with state coercion to accept a bad plea deal or go into trial unprepared. Alachua County jail holds hundreds of pre-trial detainees on any given day, who would walk free if they were wealthy enough, and stand a chance at defending themselves in court.
While those with money are released from confinement, those in poverty face harsh choices: languish at risk or accept a guilty plea to get out of jail—often to crimes they didn’t commit. As a result of not having enough money to get bailed out, they succumbed to a deeply flawed justice system where tough-on-crime rhetoric created policies that are not based in actual goals of public safety, rehabilitation, or community health.
Incarcerated, even for a day, an individual is at risk of violence, losing employment, the custody of their children, and housing. Most suicides in jail occur within the first week.
Crime has been declining for decades, yet the number of children with a father in state or federal prison is now estimated over 1.5 million. Estimates suggest that Black and Latinx children are up to six times more likely to have an incarcerated parent than their white peers.
Smith stated, “Incarceration often spans generations. Fathers in prison are, overwhelmingly, fatherless themselves. Youth in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration. It’s time to organize and break the cycle.”