Pretrial Detention

Pretrial Detention

Immediately after being arrested and booked on drug charges or similar offenses, most white middle-class people are released from custody as soon as a family member arrives to post bail. But unemployed people from a lower socioeconomic class facing similar charges may be unable to post bail and may therefore remain in jail until their court appearance, which may be weeks or even months away. According to 1997 Bureau of Justice statistics, 378 state correctional facilities (27 percent of the total) were under court order to reduce population or improve conditions of confinement. Conditions in jails may include sleeping on the floor, long waits to call a family member or lawyer, and limited access to showers. In overcrowded jails, plumbing may fail, resulting in clogged toilets and flooding. Answer the following questions:

a. Does being detained in such a setting prior to trial constitute punishment before trial?

b. What issues are raised by the fact that the poor are more likely to experience pretrial confinement than upper- and middle-class suspects?


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