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Rep. Lieu Says 450,000 People In Jail Can't Afford Bail — Not Quite

Rep. Ted Lieu was trying to make a larger point about bail reform. But his numbers just can't be backed up.
Posted at 4:34 PM, Jul 12, 2018

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu recently claimed 450,000 people sit in jail without a conviction because they're too poor to pay bail.

Not so fast. There's no good data to back that up.

Lieu made the claim when he was responding to lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who painted Paul Manafort's pre-trial jailing as unfair. Lieu was trying to make a larger point about reforming bail.

But the 450,000 number comes from a government report that says there were 458,600 people without convictions sitting in American jails at the end of 2016. Those people could be in jail for lots of reasons, not just because they can't afford bail. 

They could be people who are being held without bail, or people who are awaiting admission to a mental health facility.

It's also important to note that judges often set really high bails on purpose for people who might be flight risks or dangers to the public.

But yes, there are a number of studies that say a lot of people sit in jail pre-conviction because they can't afford their bail. But 450,000 of them? That's not something we can back up.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.