Ryan Cooper in The Week:
If you are arrested for a serious crime, you're supposed to be taken to jail and booked. Then there's some sort of hearing, and if the judge doesn't think you will skip town or commit more crimes, you are either released on your own recognizance, or you post bail, and you are free until a pre-trial hearing. After that, you either go to trial, or plead guilty and accept punishment.
But for a great many people, this is not how it works. As a new report from the Prison Policy Initiative demonstrates, over one-third of people who go through the booking process end up staying in jail simply because they can't raise enough cash to post bail. For millions of Americans in 2016, poverty is effectively a crime.
This flowchart lays out the basic reality for people who get booked. A very small minority (4 percent) are denied bail, while about a quarter are released without bail. Thirty-eight percent manage to make bail, while 34 percent can't scrape together the cash:
People who can't make bail (let's call them “bailed-in”) make little money, with a median pre-jail income of $15,109 — less than half the median income for the general population.