Bonding out "Paul" during COVID
On Wednesday, July 15, I was asked on behalf of the NH Bail and Bond fund to pay $100 bail for “Paul” at the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, NH. I was surprised by this request because I thought that new laws prevented a person from being held pre-trial if they could not pay bail for minor offenses. I expected that a court may not set cash bail in an amount it knows will detain the defendant, where the court found that the defendant was not dangerous or a flight risk. As I drove to the Valley Street Jail, I wondered how Paul may be perceived as dangerous. I was informed that Paul, a person who suffers from alcohol disuse, had been arrested for criminal trespass at a local hospital when he refused to leave when directed to do so.
The Valley Street Jail is a large brick building with a modern front entrance. I had been directed to walk around the side to an obscure unmarked entry. In the entry way I picked up a phone to request admission. I entered a small bleak waiting area with several plastic chairs spaced presumably six feet apart for social distancing. I was happy that I was the only person there. On one side of the room was a door, a phone, and a large glass window with the shade drawn. Below the window was a drawer for handing documents, ID or money. After several minutes someone raised the shade and indicated to me to pick up the phone. I explained my purpose and was asked for my ID which I passed through the drawer. I was informed I needed to pay $100 cash bail and $40 for the bail commissioner.
After a considerable amount of time a woman came to the window asked for the money and gave me a receipt for the payment and the date of Paul’s court appearance, which was August 3rd. If the NH Bail and Bond fund had not provided bail for Paul, he may have been required to stay in jail for nearly three weeks. Apparently, if he is unable to come up with the money either personally or through a commercial bail bondsman, he can be incarcerated from his arrest until his case is resolved or dismissed in court. The bail clerk told me that Paul would be brought down, but it may take a while because he had a walker. I tried to imagine how someone with a walker could be a danger or a flight risk.
Soon, Paul came through the door. I was surprised to see a small somewhat mild-mannered man walk through the door pushing a walker. Paul, a man in his 60’s with mobility issues was certainly at risk staying in jail with the current Covid pandemic. I was happy NH Bail and Bond with the help of charitable donations by caring individuals could prevent a three week stay in jail for this fragile looking senior citizen who was being detained for a relatively minor offense.
Update by Jessica P., volunteer from Dunstable MA