DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry has implemented a new internal policy, which would encourage prosecutors to not seek cash bond for non-violent misdemeanors and low-level felonies, with an exception for domestic violence cases.
"When people have cash bonds to pay, if they cannot pay them, they sometimes spend more time in jail than if they were convicted," Deberry said.
In a press release from the District Attorney's office, Deberry further explained the change noting, "this policy removes wealth from the equation to the extent possible under North Carolina law, instead, making public safety the determining factor in pretrial release recommendations."
Andrea Hudson, the Director of the North Carolina Community Bail Fund of Durham, is supportive of the change.
"We have so many people who have not been convicted of a crime but they're being held just because they're poor because they don't have the money to pay to be free," said Hudson.
Her group, funded by donations, helps post bond amounts of $2,000 or less. She believes the alternative can lead to a vicious cycle.
"In the midst of that, they lose so many things and they agree to take plea deals because they just want to get out and they don't want to be incarcerated," Hudson explained.
She believes family support, reminders from the court, and transportation services are more important than a cash bond in whether a person would return to court.
Deberry said since being implemented, the number of people incarcerated in the Durham County Detention Facility has dropped 15 percent, adding that it costs $98 per day for each incarcerated person.
"The jail is a living organism, and we're trying to pay more attention to who's in there and who isn't. I think the Public Defender's Office and the defense attorneys have also been helpful in holding our feet to the fire on these policies," Deberry said.
Ultimately, judges set the pretrial release conditions, with this policy informing what recommendations prosecutors should make.