ACLU Files Lawsuit Against City of Denver for Outrageous Bail Bond Fees


In a righteous blow to the prison industrial complex’s enduring grab for funds from already cash-strapped communities, the American Civil Liberties Union has brought a lawsuit against the city of Denver for what it terms illegal jail bond fees.


The lawsuit reportedly began when a Denver man committed a petty crime by breaking a city ordinance. His $10 bond to be released was dwarfed by a $50 bond fee.

KDVR reports that the bonds in the Denver metro area usually go for between $10 and $50. Combined with a mandatory booking fee that runs $30, the ask can sometimes prove too costly for arrestees, and so they languish in jail.

Even for bail bondswoman Christina Martin, that makes no fiscal sense.

“It looks like it would cost more than that just to feed them [in jail] for the one day,” she said to the outlet.

Well, somebody is getting paid, best believe that. Bail bonds in Denver go to the city’s general fund coffers; some of it is diverted to the state.

The ACLU, long a leader in bail reform, notes that on any given day in 2015, roughly 700,000 people were locked up in local jails, the majority of whom had not been convicted of any crime but had to remain because of an inability to pay.


The organization notes that the bail system penalizes people of color and poorer Americans (mostly poor Americans of color), who can remain “stuck in jail awaiting trial, sometimes for months or years. Meanwhile, wealthy people accused of the same crime can buy their freedom and return home.”


In August, KDVR reports that El Paso County agreed to a $190,000 settlement after being accused of violating the constitutional rights of those who couldn’t afford to pay $55 pretrial supervision fees.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


I get sad thinking about the people who were stuck behind bars and those who didn’t make it out/were so traumatized by the experience that they took their lives because they couldn’t afford to make bail.