ACLU sues 36th District Court for cash bail system that 'discriminates against poor people'

The ACLU is suing Detroit's 36th District Court, claiming the cash bail system discriminates against poor people and should be overhauled.

"This two-tier system is cruel, unfair and unconstitutional," said Dan Korobkin.

The ACLU of Michigan is targeting 36th District Court, claiming a broken bail system is putting poor black people behind bars indefinitely as their cases snake through the courts, while those people who can afford to pay their bonds get to go home.

"We're both violating people's constitutional and human rights - and we're wasting millions and millions of dollars," Korobkin said.

After sitting in on dozens of arraignments, the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal class action lawsuit that claims that poor people can't afford their bonds and that defendants are not being given attorneys at arraignment as required by law.

"The money bail system has morphed into mass incarceration of people who are poor, people who are black and people who belong at home with their families," Korobkin said.

The ACLU wants a complete overhaul of the system -- one they say uneccessarily harms people. Instead they say judges should do a thorough individual assessment. If people are not a flight risk or a danger to the community, they should not be stuck in jail just because they can't afford a bond.

"There's no such thing as too much justice. We're talking about 30 second spent on whether someone's life is completely torn apart. There's the potential for someone to lose their job, their housing, their kids - maybe even their life - and 30 seconds are spent on that? That's not acceptable," Korobkin said.

Thousands of people like Kushawn Moore, a 17 year old accused of armed robbery. He was not given a lawyer at arraignment and is unable to afford a $50,000 bond.

"He's still in high school. He's missing school now. He works at McDonald's. He's missing time at his job," said his step mother Deleda Moore. "It's like he's been tried and convicted already and he's not able to come home."

The chief judge at 36th District Court declined to comment.

"This young man is currently incarcerated because he can't afford to get out - that is unjust and we're going to stop it," said Aaron Lewis with Covington & Burling LLP.