New bail bond reforms put in place in Shelby County

Shelby County Bail System Reform
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 5:57 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Criminal justice reform advocates say this is a time to celebrate, a new bail process is now in place in the Shelby County Court system, and thousands of people enter the doors at 201 Poplar every year.

For some, they’re in and out in a manner of hours.

For others, a proper bail hearing can take days, even weeks.

“Across the country, we’ve seen time and time again people are detained in that kind of backwards way where it’s just because they can’t afford their bail,” says Andrea Woods with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project.

ACLU, along with other organizations such as Just City, Official Black Lives Matter Memphis, and Wharton Law firm, sent a letter to

government officials last year asking for bail reform.

The changes include a guarantee an individual will be given a bail hearing within three days after the arrest.

After an examination of a person’s financial circumstances, cash bail will be imposed only as a last resort.

The county will also add a new bail hearing courtroom.

However, the reforms don’t come without a price tag.

Shelby County Commissioners approved over 3 million dollars in general and capital improvement funds to pay for it all earlier this month.

“The money that is being allocated for this endeavor pales in comparison to what I think we would be facing in the county with your typical class action lawsuit, which we’ve had many before,” said Shelby county attorney Marlinee Iverson.

Cash bail has been a long-debated issue in this country, but it does have some critics, specifically the bail bonds industry, who spoke against the funding of the project just before the vote with commissioners.

Josh Spickler with Just City says the most significant impact of these reforms will be on non-violent, low-level criminals.

The new bail reforms should be complete by mid-February.

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