What happens when a person is arrested?
Being arrested means that one is taken into police custody. A county or city prosecutor then decides whether or not the person who has been arrested should be charged with committing a crime. If the answer is no, the person is released—there are no charges filed, no bail posted, and no trial.
When someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they will typically appear in front of a judge to have bail set within 48 hours of when they were arrested, not including weekends or holidays. There are also certain offenses where someone can be released quickly without bail or have a bail amount set by the jail without waiting for their first appearance.
What happens if a person can’t afford bail?
If a person cannot afford to pay the bail amount set by the judge in their case, they will remain in jail until their trial is completed and a judge or jury renders a verdict on their charges. Many people who cannot afford bail can spend days, weeks, or even months in jail waiting for their trial. The threat of a prolonged stay in jail before their trial often pressures many people to enter into plea bargains, where they plead guilty to a lesser charge even if they are innocent, in order to shorten the amount of time they spend in jail.
What are Minnesota jails like?
Each county in Minnesota has a jail that houses people who have been accused of a crime and are being held until their trial begins. On average, Sixty-six percent (66%) of people held in jails are awaiting trial and have not yet even had a chance to prove their innocence. While the overall jail population in Minnesota has declined since its peak in 2005, the number of people held pre-trial has actually increased by 10 percent between 2005 and 2015.
Jails in Minnesota, like jails across the country, are built for short-term stays. Most of them don’t have a yard or any outdoor area for recreation. Most jails in Minnesota don’t allow in-person visits, and the video call options offered to arrestees are incredibly expensive. Jails typically do not offer much if any educational programming or access to classes or libraries. The units where arrestees are held are often packed with as many people as possible, offering little to no privacy. There have been reports in Minnesota of people getting scurvy who have been held for long periods of time because of the poor food quality.
Nationwide, the average time someone spends in jail is 10-20 days for those being held pre-trial, but that number can range into months.
How are jails different from prisons?
In Minnesota, prisons are called “correctional facilities.” They are built to house people who have been charged and convicted of a crime with a sentence of more than a year. They have outdoor yards that people can access, and a dedicated medical area with full-time medical staff. While correctional facilities are supposed to help “rehabilitate” people, rather than just detain them for short periods of time, they still use harmful practices like solitary confinement to punish incarcerated people.
How quickly can the Minnesota Freedom Fund provide bail support after someone has been arrested?
The Minnesota Freedom Fund makes every effort to pay bails as soon as we can, but we still need time to process and complete the necessary paperwork. This can typically take anywhere from 24 hours to a few days from the time that they apply for our assistance.
Those who have been arrested and need assistance, or their friends and relatives, can request financial assistance directly from the Minnesota Freedom Fund here.