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El Paso County takes steps on bail after ACLU suit


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Jasmine Still has a felony due her inability to pay a $55 fee. - COURTESY ACLU OF COLORADO
  • Courtesy ACLU of Colorado
  • Jasmine Still has a felony due her inability to pay a $55 fee.

On Nov. 7, as the Indy reported, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado sued El Paso County on behalf of a 26-year-old mom who nearly lost custody of her children while in jail pending trial on a drug charge. The woman had been granted no-cost bail by a judge, but was kept behind bars because she couldn't pay a $55 fee to the county's pretrial services fund, which monitors people who are released on personal recognizance. The ACLU argued that amounted to a violation of her due process rights.

Fewer than 10 days later, on Nov. 16, Tim Wolken, executive director of the county's community services, asked the Board of County Commissioners to boost the $120,000 pretrial services budget by $400,000 in 2018. The money would allow more people to be assessed for no-cost bail. The pretrial services program also agreed to release arrestees when ordered to do so, even if its fees can't be immediately paid.

Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director, said "there's no reason it should have taken this long to make those changes." He'll continue to fight the case in hopes of winning damages for his client.


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