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New Colorado Senate bill would end cash bail for most misdemeanors

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Some Colorado lawmakers, who think bail discriminates against people who can’t afford it, have created a bill to prohibit monetary bond for more minor crimes.

The new bill that could hit the Colorado Senate floor soon would ban judges from issuing a cash bail for shoplifting, trespassing, drug felonies, and other lower-level offenses if the defendant isn’t considered a flight risk or dangerous.

Supporters say the bill would make the system more fair for low-income people, and lower the number of people locked up in our overcrowded jails.

"It's time to completely rethink how police interact with our communities and recalibrate the role money has in our justice system. Because access to funds shouldn't determine a person's right to freedom and non-violent, low-level offenses shouldn't elicit an arrest," said state Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs), who is sponsoring the bill.

This is the same law that was passed in President of the National Association of Bail Agents Michelle Esquenazi’s home state of New York years ago. She thinks it’s a bad move for others to follow suit, saying this kind of decision should be left to the experts even if it could bring more money to the state budget.

"The legislative branch should never usurp the judicial branch just to pass policy because of some fiscal promises," Esquenazi told KRDO.

She says there's a reason many of these low-level criminals should spend some time in jail: to get help.

"Much of these crimes with moral turpitude are committed by people that are recidivists because of addiction and because of mental illness," Esquenazi explained.

The measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and will now head to Senate Finance for further consideration.

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Julia Donovan

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