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Thursday, May 30, 2024

“Exploding the myth”: People are not languishing in local jail due to inability to pay bond DA says

District Attorney Ben David (right) and NHCSO Chief Deputy Ken Sarvis (left) held a press conference to discuss jail populations (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
District Attorney Ben David (right) and NHCSO Chief Deputy Ken Sarvis (left) held a press conference to discuss jail populations. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

District Attorney Ben David says jail is a scarce resource and his office, along with the sheriff’s office don’t want non-violent offenders taking up beds or ‘languishing’ in jail because they can’t pay bail.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — In response to a new grassroots organization setting up tables in front of the New Hanover County Jail advocating to “bail out black mammas,” District Attorney Ben David along with Chief Deputy for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office  (NHCSO) Ken Sarvis held a press conference to address bail, jail, and how residents who feel compelled to help can do so.

The group called the “Campaign to End Cash Bail” explains its mission on its Facebook page:

“Thousands of North Carolinians- disproportionately Black and Brown folks- are kept in jail just because they are poor. They are in jail not because they have been found guilty of a crime but simply because they are too poor to pay for their freedom before trial. Many are forced to turn to for-profit bail bonds companies, trapping them and their families in years of debt. We can change this! Join our campaign to end the use of cash bail for folks awaiting trial. Prison abolition- or any meaningful criminal justice change- cannot happen without bail reform,” the description reads.

According to WWAY, “Members of the campaign group joined “Southerners on New Ground” and other community organizations Wednesday, calling the effort “Black Mama’s Bail Out. One participant says their goal is to help women who cannot afford their bail. She says they hope this will keep women from losing their jobs, homes and even children while they deal with their own legal matters.”

Exploding the myth

But the District Attorney is not convinced this is the best way to help those in need and said his office along with the NHCSO has been working for nearly two years to help reduce jail populations and ensure that people do not “languish” in jail simply because they cannot pay bail.

“The purpose of today’s press conference is to explain the efforts that have been ongoing, not just by us, but by an incredible group out of the courthouse, and to explode the myth that there is anyone languishing in the New Hanover County Jail, or the Pender County Jail, on a mere drug possession charge or for their inability to afford a minor charge on a bond,” David said.

He suggested those who want to help reduce the jail population for offenders who cannot pay bail or have non-violent offenses should consider donating to United Way, which would, in turn, help local non-profits throughout the region.

David also disagreed that there are hundreds of people sitting in jail in New Hanover County simply because they could not pay bail. David said jail is a “scarce resource” and he only wants to use it for those who should be off the streets — violent criminals, drug dealers, and sex offenders.

“What we are attempting to do for each and every case, for men and woman, black or white, rich and poor is to make sure that justice applies fairly to everyone, and that’s the equal protection clause — and that we keep everyone safe in the process,” David said.

Housing an inmate costs around $90 per day, so the NHCSO, as well as the DA, do not want to keep people in jail that would be better off outside of jail or being treated for perhaps, underlying mental health issues, they said.

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