– Why do people spend so much time in jail awaiting trial?


I keep hearing about people in jail for 3+ years awaiting trial. If they’re ‘innocent until proven guilty’ I dont understand why they are confined. I thought there was a right to a speedy trial also or is that not really the case?

In: 235

A person can waive the right to a speedy trial. And if someone is deemed a flight risk or can’t post bail, they’ll probably be stuck waiting in jail. If someone for instance has a long criminal history, a judge may be wise to not let them roam the streets.

Speedy is how fast the court can set the trial. If there’s 40 cases between the defendant and his/ her trial, they have to wait. First come, first served.

Because the court systems are overloaded with cases. The wait for trial is a motivating factor to accept plea deals for sentences that are shorter then the likely wait for a trial.

Which means adding more judicial resources to hear more cases may not have any effect because it would only lead to more cases going to trial.

Letting suspects out is problematic, as it is a risk to society if they were a threat. Most serious charges are not offered bail, but even among those who are, the rearrest rates are high, 20+% are arrested again prior to trial.

Obviously it’s led to a lot of debate between balancing the rights of suspects with the realities of bad people being able to do more bad things.

Sometimes, for those who know they’ll be found guilty, it’s a strategy. Some jurisdictions award significantly less prison time for extended pretrial custody.

But usually it’s the courts being busy.

Because the US justice system is fucked up and built to harm people with lower income (and by extension, people of color). You’re stuck with paying court fees, for a lawyer, fines, lab tests, probation. Add being homeless to being poor, and it’s almost impossible to pay for everything and to make it to court/probation appointments. There are people who’ve been in Rikers Island for years before they see their trial date. It’s awful and is just one of many parts of the US criminal justice system that need total overhaul.

Some info from the [Prison Policy Initiative](https://www.prisonpolicy.org/research/pretrial_detention/):

Key Statistics:

Percent of people in city and county jails being held pretrial: 67% +

Median bail bond for a felony: $10,000 +

Average yearly income of a man who can’t afford bail: $16,000. For women: $11,000 +

Percent of women who can’t afford bail who have minor children: 66% +

Percent of pretrial population that is Black: 43% +

Share of jail population growth since 1983 caused by pretrial detention: 63% +

Annual national cost of pretrial detention: $13.6 billion