Tennessee’s Knox County Dealing with Lawsuit Over Illegal Bail Practices

Knox County is being known as out for its alleged shady bail practices that reportedly violate state and federal regulation.

In response to a press launch despatched out on Monday, Southern Poverty Legislation Heart (SPLC) and Civil Rights Corps (CRC) have teamed as much as doubtlessly sue Knox County over their bail practices, SPLC experiences. The attainable go well with comes after a two-and-half-year investigation the place a number of appearances, arraignments, and preliminary hearings had been noticed in entrance of magistrates, prosecutors, public defenders, and Common Classes Courtroom judges.

After reviewing information, court docket transcripts, and interviewing quite a few magistrates, protection attorneys, and neighborhood organizations, SPLC and CRC decided that Knox County’s bail practices violated state and federal regulation by jailing folks pretrial as a result of them not having the ability to afford their bail. Consequently, SPLC and CRC are asking Knox County officers to carry constitutional bail hearings that will forestall folks from being despatched to jail with out ever happening trial.

SPLC and CRC have warned Knox County judges, the sheriff, public defender, and different officers of the approaching lawsuit that can come if the County’s pretrial practices aren’t modified to adjust to state and federal regulation.

“In Knox County, a whole lot of people that get pleasure from a constitutional presumption of innocence sit in jail daily as a result of they don’t have the cash to pay for bail,” mentioned Micah West, senior workers lawyer for the Financial Justice Mission on the Southern Poverty Legislation Heart. “A 2019 report concluded that the jail can be working at 250% of its capability by 2043 until practices modified. The jail’s dimension is pushed—largely—by the County’s pretrial practices: greater than 75% of individuals in custody are in pretrial detention. It is unnecessary, morally or fiscally, to maintain so many individuals in cages just because they can not pay for his or her freedom.”

“Probably the most worrisome facet of Knox County’s bail practices is that they’re so much like the unconstitutional bail practices now we have seen throughout Tennessee,” mentioned Tara Mikkilineni, senior lawyer at Civil Rights Corps. “Simply up the highway in Hamblen County, the decide and judicial commissioners routinely imposed unaffordable cash bail quantities ー typically as excessive as $1 million. When judges make bail unaffordable, they’re basically detaining individuals who can’t pay for his or her freedom. We all know that cash bail has devastating impacts on people and communities, particularly when it might take weeks, months, and even years earlier than they’ll go to trial. Knox County’s bail practices stand in the way in which of pretrial liberty— Tennesseans deserve higher.”

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