Hawaii’s Bail System Keeps Poor People in Jail Longer — so Where’s the Fix?

Honolulu Civil Beat 

By Terri Langford


When a Judiciary-led task force delivers its recommendations to legislators about how to improve Hawaii’s pretrial legal system, there apparently will be no call for comprehensive reform of the money bail system used to release some defendants after their initial arrest.

That would disappoint advocates of criminal justice reform who want Hawaii to follow the lead of other states like New Jersey, which overhauled its entire bail system in 2017, or California, which this year became the first state to rid itself of the cash bail system entirely.

The ACLU of Hawaii issued a report in January showing that in cases where bail was set, less than half of criminal defendants were able to pay it and instead remained days, even weeks, in jail, which costs taxpayers $170 a day per inmate.

“There should be a number of offenses where bail is not required,” said Mateo Caballero, legal director of the ACLU of Hawaii.

The task force is keeping quiet on more subtle recommendations regarding bail.

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