A Texas woman was placed behind bars over the alleged theft of a single dollar, and remains in custody, as she is unable to make $12,000 in bail, Austin’s KVUE-TV reports. The arrest and imprisonment are emblematic of a larger problem of harsh criminal justice, high bail amounts, and other factors, which have a disproportionate effect on the poor.
Gina Dianne Guidry was arrested on Wednesday night. She had reportedly been hanging out near an Austin taco truck when she allegedly began harassing a customer for money, demanding that one woman give her a dollar. When the would-be victim refused, Guidry allegedly began getting more aggressive and called her obscenities.
Unfortunately for the victim, she was waiting for her change from her taco purchase. When the cashier did attempt to give the victim back her two dollars in change, Guidry allegedly stole one of those dollar bills and attempted to walk off.
She didn’t get very far. Moments later, police showed up. After interviewing both Guidry and the victim, the officer was reportedly convinced that there was enough evidence to arrest Guidry. The victim pressed charges.
Unfortunately for Guidry, although the amount of the alleged theft — a single dollar — was trifling, Texas considers theft directly from a person (as opposed to shoplifting or robbery) a felony. She was jailed, and her bail was set at $12,000.
The fact that a woman can be charged with a felony for the theft of a dollar, put behind bars, and held pending $12,000 bail, is emblematic of a larger problem of harsh criminal justice in the U.S., including high bails, which disproportionately affects the poor and minorities, reports The Guardian.
Advocates for bail reform say that high bails essentially make the accused’s wealth a determining factor in whether or not they are released from custody before their trials.
What’s more, poor defendants who aren’t even guilty of the crimes of which they’re accused have pleaded guilty in order to get out of jail, lest they lose their jobs or have their children taken into foster care. It’s a choice wealthier defendants don’t have to make.
Amid the push to eliminate cash bail, at least for minor crimes, California became the first state to eliminate the practice. Not so in Texas — the Lone Star State considered bail reform in 2017, but the state’s legislature failed to pass any such laws. The bail systems in Dallas and Harris counties are so harsh, a court ruling declared their systems unconstitutional.