The ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit on behalf of people locked in Galveston County Jail because they cannot afford to pay bail, challenging the County’s practice of automatically setting money bail to detain people arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. This follows a fifteen-month investigation of Galveston County, revealing that thousands of people are locked away each year, without a hearing, simply because they cannot afford to pay money bail.

The practice perpetuates a two-tiered and unconstitutional wealth-based incarceration system that devastates individuals, their families and their communities. Those who cannot afford bail must remain in jail for considerable periods of time, leading many to lose their jobs, their homes, and their children. As a result, defendants often plead guilty to the crimes of which they are charged, not because they are guilty, but because it’s the fastest way out of jail, and they are desperate to return to their communities.

With no empirical evidence that secured money bail increases arrestees’ rates of appearance in court or community safety, these practices wreak needless havoc on individuals’ lives and unnecessarily burden taxpayers.

The suit was jointly filed by the ACLU of Texas, the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

Date filed

April 8, 2018


United States District Court Southern District of Texas Galveston Division



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