Sometimes when abnormal things are happening, we get used to the things and after a while don’t question it. A great example of this is the prices of prescriptions in America in 2019. Insulin is normally not hundreds of dollars per vial — you can fly overseas and get it for $20 a vial. How many of us got used to altering our driving to avoid the three-bedroom, two-bathroom pothole in the Econolodge parking lot?
Sometimes we are so used to how things are in America and we assume it’s like that all around the world. In July, an American rapper by the name of A$AP Rocky was arrested on assault charges in Sweden. Due to his popularity in the music world, and his being in Swedish custody, this quickly became a massive story. For still unknown reasons, President Donald Trump became involved in the situation, sending over lawyers and promising to pay A$AP Rocky’s bail. I guess the President could be a secret hip hop fan, you never know! Regardless, it turns out lack of money was not the reason A$AP Rocky could not post bail.
Sweden does not have a cash bail legal system. In Sweden, if you are accused of a crime, you are held in custody until your trial. Then, like A$AP Rocky was on Sunday, you are released. This factoid was a shock to many Americans; after all, most of us only know of a cash bail system. If you are charged with a crime and are not a threat to run or a threat to others you can pay money and be free until your court date.
Bail seems like a pretty simple idea until you discover that hundreds of thousands of Americans accused of a crime sit in local jails across the country because they cannot afford to post bail. Unlike Sweden, which gets most court cases in the trial stage within a couple of weeks, the American legal system can drag out for years.
Bail is actually protected in the eighth amendment of the constitution, but so is a person’s right not to be charged excessive bonds. Also, our right to a fair and speedy trial is guaranteed in the sixth amendment. The fact that any American must wait for years for a resolution to criminal trials is a complete failure of our legal system.
It is interesting to look at how other countries and cultures do things differently from us in America. While I am a huge believer in “innocent until proven guilty,” I also believe there has to be a better way for our current bail system to serve our poorer citizens. They should not have to languish in jail while waiting or plead guilty to a crime they did not commit to get out of jail. Our legal system should serve all of us citizens, not just the ones who can afford to post bail.