Ordinance eliminates cash bonds as a requirement to secure release for violation of city ordinances
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has signed ordinance 18-O-1045 which eliminates cash bonds to secure release from the City of Atlanta Detention Center following an arrest for violation of city ordinances. Criminal justice reform, including cash bail reform, has long been a key priority for Mayor Bottoms and was a centerpiece of her campaign. Mayor Bottoms signed the ordinance into law the day after the Atlanta City Council voted to approve it 13-0-2.
“I am pleased to sign this ordinance, which eliminates cash bonding at the City of Atlanta Detention Center. With this ordinance, we are affirming that people should not be held in jail because they cannot pay bond. We are also making a commitment that the City of Atlanta will ensure that no one will be jailed because of their inability to pay,” said Mayor Bottoms. “I am grateful to Councilmember Natalyn Archibong for her work in leading the passage of this ordinance. To achieve this commitment, we need action from all of our stakeholders, including the Municipal Court and our city’s non-profit and philanthropic community. I look forward to working with our partners as we continue to seek opportunities to increase the supportive resources and wrap-around services available to individuals released on signature bond to ensure their safety and the safety of our communities.”
Requiring cash for bail before an initial court hearing can result in extended detention for individuals who are accused of only low-level offenses and who cannot afford to pay the bail. This detention can have a significant impact on people’s lives, affecting their ability to maintain jobs and their homes, especially for low-income citizens. Across the country, cities, counties and states are moving away from cash bonding as an essential step towards meaningful criminal justice reform.
The ordinance maintains the ability to impose bail and other conditions for certain offenders including violent offenders, repeat offenders, and offenders who fail to appear for their initial hearing. The ordinance also authorizes the Office of the Public Defender to provide additional legal and social services so that defendants are not released into the public without the necessary support and resources needed to integrate back into their communities.
Mayor Bottoms announced last month that her Transition Team has formed a policy advisory committee to provide guidance and counsel to the Mayor on issues including criminal justice reform, as well as a number of other issues. The committee will make additional recommendations, beyond eliminating cash bonding, for meaningful criminal justice reform at the municipal level.