Usher is starting off this year with a challenge to New York’s lawmakers: Make 2019 the year we end cash bail.
The singer called for bail reform, including a reduction in the number of people in jail and the protection of the constitutional right to due process, in a pair of tweets and an accompanying video on Thursday night.
We need @NYSA_Majority@NYSenate@NYS_AM to pass real bail reform in NY State that 1) ends cash bail, 2) reduces the # of people in jail and eliminates racial disparities 3) honors due process 4) ensure that the state bears the costs of pretrial services.— Usher Raymond IV (@Usher) January 11, 2019
“There are currently 16,000 people behind bars in New York state due to their inability to afford cash bail,” Usher, a Global Citizen Ambassador, said in the video.
He urged New York state legislators to end the cash bail system, which keeps many people in jail before they have been convicted of a crime, simply because they cannot afford to make bail.
Governor Cuomo pledged to end the cash bail system in New York at the Global Citizen Festival last September, but Usher is holding his feet to the fire and pushing Cuomo to keep his promise.
Usher called for “real bail reform” in his tweet, outlining several measures that would encourage holistic and comprehensive reform of the system, including the elimination of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
People of color are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionate rates in the United States, and because people of color and people experiencing poverty are often overlapping demographics in the US, racial inequality is a major issue when it comes to criminal justice and cash bail reform.
Though the cash bail system was created as a means of ensuring that people would not skip out on their trials, it has become a tool that perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
Read More: Why It's a Crime to Be Poor in America
The US holds 25% of the total number of incarcerated people in the world in its jails and prisons — and hundreds of thousands of them have not yet been convicted of a crime. Because they cannot afford their bail (the national median is $10,000 for felonies), they may remain in jail for days, weeks, or even years.
Last year, California became the first state to do away with this system. However, activists have criticized the state for not going far enough and have expressed concern that the mechanism proposed to replace the cash bail system could lead to more pretrial detentions.
Usher and Global Citizen are calling on the state of New York to not only eliminate the cash bail system, but to set a nationwide example of progressive and comprehensive criminal justice reform.