Atlanta city proposes changing bond law

- A proposal to change how Atlanta’s city jail works is causing controversy. Some people arrested in Atlanta for what are considered minor offenses could be handed a “get out of jail free” card. It's a plan Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms endorsed, but not everyone agrees completely.

Atlanta City Councilmember Natalyn Mosby Archibong introduced the legislation on behalf of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom's administration.

"Too many people have been held in jail on minor charges because they couldn't afford to pay bail.  It is time for the City of Atlanta to address bail reform..." Archibong said when introducing the measure.

"I don't think people who are indigent should be punished and sitting in jail," said Atlanta Councilman Michael Julian Bond.

Bond and representatives of the city's bail bonds industry said they aren't sure the proposed measure is the answer.

"Any decision we make can affect us today, tomorrow," said Corey Dunlap, Free At Last Bail Bonds Company.

The measure wouldn't cover habitual or violent offenders. It specifically excludes repeat offenders and those that have been charged with a violent crime.

Under the proposed legislation, a municipal court judge could let an offender out of jail if they were charged with a minor offense like panhandling or disorderly conduct without requiring the offender to pay a cash bond. That offender would just have to sign a "signature bond" essentially promising to return to court for trial.

Dunlap said requiring cash bond helps ensure defendants will show up in court.

"The failures to appear, FTA's they will go through the roof," said Dunlap.

Councilman Bond said the potential impact on crime victims must be considered before any changes are made.

"I think we always need to consider the impact of what we do on victims, some of these crimes people say they want to alleviate the bail for they consider to be victimless crimes but I don't think the definition fits every single case," Bond said.

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