A couple of state lawmakers are trying to level the playing field for the wealthy and poor with LB-646, which would eliminate cash bail for nearly all crimes.
When a judge sets bond, the money posted is meant to be an incentive so that an accused person shows up for their court dates. It's not intended to be a punishment but some, like Senator Ernie Chambers, say it is. “You have so many more black people, with sometimes less serious charges, sitting in jail because they cannot post a bond.”
Sen. Chambers wants to do away with nearly all cash bonds in Nebraska believing they unfairly target marginalized groups.
But some fear LB-646 goes too far. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said, “There are some people who don't have the money to post bond. But we certainly need to have some security to make sure people will appear.”
Kleine believes the bill could actually increase the number of people held in jail while they wait for trial. “I almost think there would be the possibility of more people in custody if we don't allow for cash bonds because if it's just up to the judge to release him or not release him, they're many times going to err on the side of caution.”
This wasn't the only conversation on bail Wednesday as LB-282 was presented. That bill would eliminate cash bail for lesser crimes such as misdemeanors.
Supporters had arguments similar to those on LB-646 Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro said, “Money bond punishes poverty. Any limitation on the use of money bond is a good thing. We should not detain people based on wealth.”
No one spoke in opposition of LB-282.
If cash bail is done away with, judges could still choose to assign bail to those who have committed murder, treason and certain sexual offenses.