Google Maps, The Racial Dot Map/UVA Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

When I saw that "Too Many People in Jail" was trending Saturday morning, I figured @midnight must have taken a weirdly serious turn. But no, a New York Times op-ed had actually gotten American Twitter users to tweet about a serious issue like over-incarceration and our problematic bail system.

In "Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail," writer Maya Schenwar argues that—well, you can probably put it together. Most of the people being held in local jails have not been convicted of a crime and are only there because they couldn't afford to post bail pre-trial. This describes as many as 60 percent of those incarcerated, according to a 2012 report by the Justice Policy Institute.

This system of posting monetary bail in order to get out of jail disproportionately disadvantages low-income people, Schenwar argues, and therefore it disproportionately disadvantages people of color, as there's a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and race.

One option for those who can't afford to immediately post bail is to obtain a surety bond, or bail bond, from a bond agency to be refunded post-trial. It's interesting to note that in some parts of the U.S., these agencies tend to be more heavily distributed wherever there are large Black and Hispanic communities, demographics of people that are disproportionately represented in our jail and prison system.

Top: Locations of bail bonds services around New York City, via Google Maps. Bottom: Racial demographics of New York City area, via The Racial Dot Map/UVA Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Green represents Black communities, yellow means Hispanic, blue means White, and red means Asian.


The companies behind these bonds are for-profit, and Mother Jones found that some of their revenues increased by as much as 21 percent between 2004 and 2012. Does that mean that the bail bonds industry, like any other commercial industry, might be actively interested in increasing their profits year by year? Are they more focused on preserving their foothold in the criminal-justice system than on providing low-income incarcerated people—disproportionately of color—with a means of staying out of jail? The implication should be as troubling as the argument Schenwar puts forward in her op-ed.

Just something to think about before you dive back into the top-trending hashtag hell that is #FattenAMovie.

Bad at filling out bios seeks same.