Attorney General Keith Ellison called for an end to the “cash bail system” in a 2018 tweet, his Republican opponent revealed in a press release Wednesday.
Proponents of so-called bail reform say the current system unfairly penalizes low-income Americans, who are often minorities, and therefore the system is also racist. This movement is championed in Minnesota by a notorious group called the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which has used its $40 million in revenue to bail out potentially dangerous individuals, many of whom have gone on to commit new crimes while out on bail.
“The cash bail system criminalizes poverty, forcing legally innocent people with less wealth to remain incarcerated while wealthier people accused of the same crime go free,” Minnesota Freedom Fund has said in response to past criticisms.
Ellison appears to agree with this analysis, saying in 2018 that “hundreds of thousands of people are in jail who have not been convicted of any crime and simply cannot afford bail.”
“We must stop being a nation where freedom is based on income. Let’s end the cash bail system,” he said.
On any given day, hundreds of thousands of people are in jail who have not been convicted of any crime and simply cannot afford bail. We must stop being a nation where freedom is based on income. Let's end the cash bail system. https://t.co/g8TZIgGSyC
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 2, 2018
Republican challenger Jim Schultz urged Ellison to “disavow his support for reckless no-bail policies” and commit to supporting the BANE Act, a bill in the Minnesota Legislature that would crack down on groups like the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
“Keith Ellison shows more concern for violent criminals than for their victims, and that is an outrage,” said Schultz. “Minnesotans deserve an Attorney General that will end the revolving door of violent criminals not being held accountable for their actions. Key to this is ensuring we have responsible bail policies.”
Ellison also supported a 2020 Hennepin County proposal to end bail requirements for 19 felony crimes, including theft of a motor vehicle, theft of up to $35,000, damage to property, identity theft, and more.
A year later, metro-area mayors specifically blamed this policy for an increase in car thefts in their cities.
State Democrats rushed to Ellison’s defense in response to Schultz’s criticisms Wednesday.
“Imagine living in a world where a person accused of a crime stays in jail or goes free based on how much money they have,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “That’s what cash bail is.”
Imagine living in a world where a person accused of a crime stays in jail or goes free based on how much money they have.
That’s what #CashBail is.
— Melvin Carter (@melvincarter3) October 12, 2022
A House candidate endorsed by Ellison asserted that “cash bail is racist.”
A recent study of a California county that enacted a “no cash bail” policy found that 70% of arrestees released under the policy were rearrested while out on bail.
Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan also faced criticism Wednesday for expressing support for an end to cash bail in the past.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 12, 2022
According to the New York Post, New York’s 2019 bail reform legislation resulted in “jarring examples” of “violent criminals being released promptly and then victimizing more people.”
The latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found Schultz trails Ellison 43% to 45% with 13% undecided, meaning Schultz has narrowed the gap from 6 points to 2 in a month.