Bill seeks to regulate charitable bail associations

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 sparked incredible demand for making changes to policing and the criminal justice system and how individuals that interact with these systems are treated. In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, millions of dollars were donated to organizations involved in this work, especially charitable bail organizations in Minnesota. These organizations work to ensure that no one remains incarcerated because they cannot afford bail, and many are working to transform the bail and corrections system as a whole.

This increase in donations led to concerns and scrutiny about who these organizations are posting bail for. A bill heard in the Judiciary Committee this week aimed to regulate these organizations, prohibiting them from bailing out individuals that are incarcerated for violent crimes and requiring more transparency about how funds are being used.

While there was some support for the bill, there are also concerns that Republicans are focusing on organizations that are working to improve the bail system, and not the issues Minnesotans face with the cash bail system itself. Cash bail criminalizes poverty, and efforts to make it more difficult for Minnesotans to make bail for low-level offences would disproportionally harm those who can least afford it. A bill to ensure people aren’t left incarcerated simply due to an inability to pay cash bail has yet to receive a hearing in the Republican controlled Senate.

The bill passed out of committee and is waiting for a final hearing on the floor. The bill’s companion is unlikely to be heard in the House. (SF 415)