Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts, BA




Political Science and Legal Studies

Faculty Advisor

Sheila Scheuerman


Studies have shown that in the past fifteen years, the number of people jailed in the United States has sharply increased, thereby continuing the upward trend of incarceration that erupted in the 1980s. Jail populations are steadily increasing; yet, in the past fifteen years, the number of people convicted of crimes has stayed the same. The reason for this phenomenon: individuals are forced to remain in jail not because they are deemed a threat to public safety, but because they cannot afford the cost of bail. This system has drastically deviated from its original purposes and now destroys lives by permitting government-sanctioned economic discrimination against individuals who are predominantly African American and Hispanic. In a day and age of social transformation and restoration, a mass constitutional violation still exists. The introduction of this paper explains the prevalence of poverty-based incarceration throughout the United States and the imperative nature of reforming the outdated system of bail. Part III of this paper outlines the legal framework of bail implementation through A) bail’s original purpose in the criminal justice system and B) modern case law dealing with bail reform. Part IV of this paper examines the excessive costs of a cash bail system by analyzing A) disparities in the prison population and B) the negative effects of incarceration on an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. Part V of this paper describes reform efforts by discussing A) the elimination of cash bail; B) the creation and success of community bail funds; and C) social reform that emphasizes early intervention and humane approaches like mental health courts and school resources. Part VI of this paper proposes my original idea to restructure the unjust system of cash bail. Part VII of this paper briefly concludes the critical demand for bail reform in America’s criminal justice system

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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