NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t



FRESH AIR: According to a report by the Vera Institute for Justice, there are more than 3,000 local jails in America, holding more than 730,000 people on any given day. Nancy Fishman, a project director at the Vera Institute, tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that jails “have impacted a huge number of Americans … many more than are impacted by state prisons.” The Vera Institute’s report documents that there are almost 12 million admissions to local jails each year, representing about 9 million people. Most of those jailed, she says, are being held for low-level offenses, such as drug misdemeanors, traffic offenses or nonviolent property crimes. And, she adds, the majority are poor. Fishman notes that most of the people in jail are pretrial, which means that they have not yet been convicted of anything. “They are legally innocent,” she says. “One of the great travesties, frankly, of jail admissions right now is that we have people sitting in jail for long periods simply because they can’t afford to pay [bail].” Fishman adds that being in jail often leads to increased poverty, because many jails charge fees to their inmates. “That pass-through [in] jails is damaging and has huge repercussions,” she says. “You’re talking about people who often come in in fragile economic situations and end up that much worse by the time they get out.” MORE