Atlanta/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 11, 2024
Bail Project Halts Atlanta Operations as Georgia Expands Cash Bail Law Amid ControversySource: Google Street View

The Bail Project, a non-profit known for providing assistance to low-income individuals in pre-trial detention, has announced the closure of its Atlanta operations. This comes in response to a new Georgia law, Senate Bill 63, which expands cash bail requirements and imposes significant constraints on the activities of bond-posting organizations. FOX 5 Atlanta reports that the new law, set to take effect next month, will necessitate cash bail for an additional 30 offenses, which includes 18 that are typically classified as misdemeanors.

In a move that is viewed as controversial by some and necessary by others, SB 63 also restricts the ability of individuals and groups to post more than three cash bonds annually unless they are willing to go through the process of becoming licensed bail bond companies, as per U.S. News. That process includes satisfying a series of requirements including passing a background check, paying fees, holding a valid business license, and getting the local sheriff’s approval.

The Bail Project has criticized the new legislation for perpetuating a two-tiered system of justice where freedom before a trial is heavily dependent on one's financial ability. According to the non-profit, this system discriminates significantly against those who lack the means, often resulting in extended periods of incarceration for individuals awaiting their court dates. The group has been active in over 30 jurisdictions and claims to have used $81 million to liberate more than 30,000 people from pre-trial detention since 2018.

Responses to the bail reform have been mixed. Georgia's Republican Governor Brian Kemp defended the legislation, stating during his signing ceremony that the law will "ensure dangerous individuals cannot walk our streets and commit further crimes." Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has voiced strong opposition, branding the law as "cruel, costly, and counterproductive," and has even mentioned the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the state. Democrats have also expressed opposition, arguing that the law could exacerbate jail overcrowding and particularly harm poor, minority defendants, according to U.S. News.