A woman accused of shoplifting spends a week in jail because she can't post a $2,000 bond. A man is sent to Riker's Island for three weeks because he can't afford $1,500 in bail. His alleged crime? Possessing a soda straw, which police officers said was illegal drug paraphernalia. Both have been identified as victims of the "bail trap." That's the system through which prosecutors use requests for high bail -- a few thousand for a misdemeanor here, a million for a homicide there -- to pressure defendants into taking a plea agreement.
But one judge in Texas is issuing her own protest against the tactic. When prosecutors asked Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown to set a $1 million bond, the judge changed the amount to $4 billion. Yes, billion with a B.