Delaware Public Media

Delaware lawmaker to push for cash bail changes again

Oct 19, 2018

One state lawmaker says he plans to push again to end the First State’s reliance on cash bail. This comes after a Smyrna women died in jail earlier this month after being unable to pay bail.


Democratic State Sen. Bryan Townsend said he doesn’t know if changes he wants to make would have saved Tiffany Reeves’ life or not.

Reeves was held on a $1,202 bond after being arrested for two outstanding warrants on Friday Oct. 5th. One stemmed from failure to appear in court related to a drug charge. The other was failing to pay court-related fines. She was scheduled to appear before two judges Monday, but she was dead by 6:12 a.m. that morning.

Townsend said he aims to ensure poor people who aren’t a danger to society don’t wait weeks in jail pre-trial because they can’t afford bail. But that doesn’t mean people won’t be detained before a trial or a hearing.

“We’re just trying to prioritize other ways that people are released pretrial," he said. "Again, if you have an issue of not showing up for your court date, I think that would something that would make it more likely that you would be detained before trial.”

Ryan Tack-Hooper of ACLU Delaware said Reeves was behind on her 25-dollar a month payment to the court and stayed in jail because she couldn’t afford her bail.

“Putting aside the specifics of her case, we do know that too many people are detained that don’t need to be because they can’t pay the cash bail that they’re given,” he said.

Legislation encouraging the use other pretrial release conditions passed in January. But the first leg of a Constitutional amendment to further reduce using cash bail failed along party lines.

Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle said Republicans were concerned about issues like public safety and the cost of the legislation. He adds he doesn’t know the specific circumstances of Reeves’ case.