Most people have heard of Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for Donald Trump, Republican Party operator and successful businessman. Mr. Manafort was recently convicted of several crimes and is looking at a lengthy stay in prison. Before being convicted, Mr. Manafort spent several months in prison. In his case, he was there because he violated several conditions of his pre-trial release.
Paul Manafort had no choice to stay in jail awaiting trial, but most people do. We can decide to wait it out and stay in jail until the trial is completed or we can post bail and live relatively free lives while the trial runs its course. Does anyone actually decide to stay in jail?
The surprising answer is yes. Some defendants, realizing the state has an airtight case against them may decide to serve pre-trial time behind bars since that time is often discounted from the sentence once the trial has ended. Others don’t want their families to face the financial hardship of forgoing a large sum of money while the trial is taking place. A few, not many, take what to them is an honorable approach, “I did the crime, I’ll do the time”. Still others are homeless and consider prison a place to stay receiving the preverbal “3 hots and a cot” referring to food and shelter.
Whatever the reason, they are usually wrong to choose jail over bail. Jails are not fun places. People awaiting trial are often worse off then those convicted. Consider Rikers Island, the infamous jail in New York City. The place is known for almost inhumane conditions, yet thousands of inmates are awaiting trial there. There is no good reason to serve pre-trial time there or any other jail if you don’t have to.
Other reasons why forgoing bail and staying in jail is a bad idea.
1. You may say things that will get you in trouble. Prisoners opening up to other prisoners about their misdeeds comes back to bite them in real life, not just television. Your cellmate is often a conniving narcissist looking for any way possible to better their own situation. They are not the ones you want to confide in. But many people do.
2. Time is your friend. Trials move slowly sometimes, especially when the state is not paying for the upkeep of the defendant. Evidence can go missing, witnesses start to forget details. There is credence to the defense attorney saying, “Justice delayed is justice”.
3. If you bail out, you have a chance to change the paradigm. For instance, suppose you have a drug habit. To pay for the habit you steal money from a convenience store. If you bail out, you can seek treatment right way, start attending programs to get well. You can give restitution to the store owner and do other good works that show contrition and remorse. The prosecutor may take this all into account and reduce your charges. It’s possible you won’t have to do any jail time at all.
Being a financial hardship to a family member is a common reason why people don’t pursue bail, but it doesn’t have to be. Using a bail agent, you only need to pay 10% of the total bail amount to gain your freedom. According to Drew Bloom of 3-D Bail Bonds in Connecticut, bail bondsman will work with clients to minimize financial hardships including providing interest free financing. They’ll explain the process, your rights and responsibilities. It is a far better solution than waiting out your trial in a cell.