More than 75 percent of the people on Rikers Island and in other city jails are not in custody due to a conviction. They are in jail on bail, sometimes as low as $250, because they cannot afford to meet this cash obligation.
For thousands of indigent criminal defendants in New York City, $500 is all that stands between weeks on Riker's Island and being branded with a criminal conviction, and having the case against them dismissed.
Granting bail to Zimmerman renders all the rallies, petitions and hard work done around the world to bring him to justice meaningless. It effectively communicates defiance within the Sanford judicial system to say, "We don't care what you think."
In less than the time it takes to make an ATM withdrawal, Cook County Bond Court judges make decisions affecting individual liberty and the public safety. This way of transacting justice exacts a dear convenience fee.
What is it about the bail bond system in the U.S. that for many critics -- including, judges, prosecutors and bar associations -- is so odious, so unfair, and indeed one of the dirty secrets in criminal law?
Today, Julian Assange is out of jail. But let's not forget that without Bradley Manning and many others like him, Assange and WikiLeaks and all our new-found public information would be as in the dark as Manning is right now.