You have to applaud a company when it tries to do the right thing, like Google deciding to reject ads from bail bonds businesses.
In a blog post, Google said bail bonds services make most of their money from minorities and low-income communities when they are most vulnerable. Too often, the company said, they end up in long-term debt because they have no choice.
Of course, there is another choice. It’s that windowless building near the bail-bond street signs.
Google has been there before — banning advertisers, that is. In 2016, the company foreclosed ads from payday lenders.
The company based its bail-bond ban on studies that show “opaque financing offers” can trap people with deep debt. According to one study, 646,000 people are locked up because they can’t afford bail.
The Prison Policy Initiative says bail money “perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time.” Rashad Robinson, director of an advocacy group, said Google did the right thing.
“At a time when corporations are finally being held accountable for their roles in enabling mass incarceration, it is encouraging to see a company as powerful as Google cutting ties with businesses that profit from incarcerating poor black and brown people,” he told ArsTechnica.
Corporate America, of course, does not set bail in any case. That would be the courts’ job.
Judges, on a case-by-case basis, are addressing the issue. The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, for example, said a city may be liable for “pay-to-play” bail.
In Webb v. City of Maplewood, the appeals court reviewed a court’s practice of setting $500 bail for traffic ticket cases. Defendants had to pay bail or go to jail.
The decision is expected to affect thousands of people in Missouri and beyond.