ACLU of Hawaii report: Bail prioritizes wealth of accused over community risk

The ACLU of Hawaii released a study showing that almost half of the people in Hawaii jails are pre-trial detainees who have not been convicted of the crimes for which they’ve been accused. This preliminary report, called “As Much Justice As You Can Afford – Hawaii’s Accused Face an Unequal Bail System,” also reveals that the average bail amount in Honolulu for the lowest level felony is over $20,000.

Read the full ACLU of Hawaii Bail Report here.

This means the primary reason so many people wait in jail for months is because they just cannot afford to get out while waiting for trial. The report is part of an ongoing, statewide investigation and analysis of how bail practices affect our local families and communities.

“Bail is not supposed to be punishment,” Legal Director Mateo Caballero said in a press release about the report. “Bail is supposed to minimize the risk of flight and danger to society while preserving the constitutional rights of the accused. Instead, our early findings show that the way bail is used in Hawai‘i does not serve any of these purposes. Instead, bail practices regularly cause people to waive their rights just to get out of jail. That is unjust and violates the constitution.”

The preliminary report is based on an analysis of six months of public data and interviews with court officials. It captures a snapshot of how bail is used in Hawaiiʻs criminal justice system, typical outcomes for the accused, and how current practices affect overcrowding of local jails like the Oahu Community Corrections Center.

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