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Letter From General Assembly Members to Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos: Current System of Cash Bail Broken, Requires Major Reform

UPDATED with response by Theo Stamos

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Check out the following, important letter to Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos from Virginia General Assembly members representing Arlington and Falls Church on the issue of cash bail. According to the letter – with which I strongly agree – Stamos’ office needs “to take steps to reform the system of cash bail bonds that has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of low-income individuals and people of color.” The problem is that, “in Virginia, up to 92% of defendants being detained for failure to post bail had been unable to pay a bail bond of $5,000 or less—strongly indicating a disproportionate impact against the poor.” That, in turn, “translates to weeks of missed income, employment, or education before ever having been convicted of a crime,” where even “one day of incarceration is enough to be fired from a job and lose employment entirely, potentially jeopardizing the financial security of an entire family because of the inability to pay a bail bond.” Why is this even remotely acceptable? Got me. But it has to change – ASAP.

UPDATE 7:14 pm – I just spoke with Commonwealth’s Attorney Stamos, and she made a few major points. First off, that her office is following the law that the General Assembly passed. Second, if the members of the General Assembly signing this letter want to change the law that she follows, they can put in legislation to do so. Third, that none of the legislators who signed this letter to her spoke to her before doing so. Fourth, that decisions regarding bail are made by the court on a case-by-case basis, taking a number of factors (e.g., risk of flight, danger to community, other factors including ability to pay) into account.