Ruling says people in Guilford County accused of minor, nonviolent crimes will not be given cash or secured bonds

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- A new ruling, announced Thursday, says people who are accused of minor and nonviolent crimes, will not be given cash or secured bonds.

These types of policies are popping up all over the country, with Guilford County the latest to join.

The judges who created the policy say the old bond system unfairly impacts people who don't have the money to post bail.

They add that this would lower the number of people who are sitting in jail and waiting for their trial.

"I went to jail and I'm not a jail guy," Kareem Kind said.

Kind never thought he'd be locked up.

He said he was arrested for a minor charge in 2019 and paid heavily for it.

"Those two days I was in jail were some of the worst times of my life," Kind said. "It's the isolation, not knowing if I was going home, I hadn't paid my rent. Everything was going through my mind."

Like so many others, he didn't have the money to get out of jail on his own.

Kind turned to a bail bondsman to set him free.

"To go to jail for something minor or to go to jail period is a horrible experience," he said.

As of Jan. 16, 2020, anyone charged with a minor, non-violent crime, who doesn't have a history of missing court dates, can walk away debt-free.

"You've done something wrong and you get to go home and you figure it out on your own," Kind said.

Not everyone is so sure about the change.

"I have mixed feelings about it," Sharon Bigelow said.

Bigelow is a bail agent with Darryl and Steve's Bail Bonding in Greensboro. She depends on the bail system for an income.

But she's also seen the other side.

"If defendants don't have an obligation, or especially defendants we keep track of, they have no incentive to go to courts," Bigelow said.

She's worried without the accountability of a bond agent, checking in with clients and having a financial obligation, crime will just get worse.

"We see people we have bonded out on TV. 'Oh wow, they killed somebody, they committed murder,'" Bigelow said. "To think these people could potentially get out of jail on a wee charge, $500 bond, and then get out and do something like kill somebody is unfathomable. But it happens."

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, it can cost between $87-$99 a day, per inmate, to keep them locked up.

Guilford County judges are hoping this change could also help save some taxpayers money.

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