Ramsey County to launch pilot project aimed at reforming cash bail system

Ramsey County to launch pilot project aimed at reforming cash bail system

Ramsey County to launch pilot project aimed at reforming cash bail system

The Ramsey County Board approved spending $2 million to start a pilot project that would change the way the current cash bail system operates.

Under the plan, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS only low-level offenders would be eligible for the new project.

“The cash bail system sucks. I mean, if you’re poor, it’s not fair. It really isn’t. It was set up for people with money,” said Choi. “And so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to mitigate that harmful impact by making a more fair process.”

Choi said a suspect arrested for a low-level criminal offense, such as drugs or theft, would be evaluated by a computerized system when they’re booked into the county jail and then an authorized person would decide to keep the suspect in jail or send them home before their first hearing before a judge.

“And, of course, if they show up for their first hearing, is there any reason to impose the cash bail system on anybody?” said Choi. “We can say okay, well, thanks for coming to this appearance and we’ll see you at the next one.”

Deputy County Manager Scott Williams told KSTP the county looked at several years of data and found low-level criminal suspects in the county, when their information was plugged into the evaluation system, would have shown up in court for their scheduled hearing before a judge.

“And, if the resulting score is relatively low then that person is a very low risk of either committing a new offense or not appearing in court,” said Williams.

And, Williams said, there would be county-hired employees who would monitor and help those suspects in between the time they’re released from custody and their first court appearance.

“Giving them reminders, asking them if there are barriers to showing up for court like a ‘I have transportation, I have no home, I have no way of receiving no mail notices, don’t mail me a notice, text me on my phone,’” said Williams.

The money for the pilot project will be available at the end of the year, which means the pilot project will likely start shortly after the funding arrives.