Georgia’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill Thursday that would sharply restrict the granting of no-cash bail to criminal suspects, and would severely limit charitable organizations that pay bail for protesters.
Senate Bill 63, which passed 30-17 along party lines, adds 30 additional felony and misdemeanor crimes to the list of bail-restricted offenses, including unlawful assembly and possession of marijuana. These additions would dramatically reduce the number of people able to post no-cash bail.
The new bill would also severely limit charitable bail funds, including those used for protesters who have been arrested, by allowing such organizations to bail out just three people per year.
“No more than three cash bonds may be posted per year by any individual, 193 corporation, organization, charity, nonprofit corporation, or group in any jurisdiction,” the bill says.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MARCH 4: Environmental activists hold a rally and a march through the Atlanta Forest, a preserved forest Atlanta that is scheduled to be developed as a police training center, March 4, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Intent upon stopping the building of what they have called cop city, the environmentalists were evicted from the forest in January, resulting in the killing by police of Manuel Teran, a young activist and medic. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
The bill’s state Senate passage comes as activists in the state continue to protest against the building of a police-training facility in the Atlanta woods, dubbed by critics as “Cop City.”
In September, 61 protesters were arrested and charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for demonstrating in the woods where the training center is being built.
And in November, police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to stop a crowd of approximately 400 people marching to the training center site.
Following the bill’s Senate passage on Thursday, the Southern Center For Human Rights sent a letter to the Atlanta City Council and Fulton County Board of Commissioners condemning the curtailing of no-cash bail.
“The language of SB 63 unnecessarily limits the ability of charities, direct aid agencies, and other groups to provide crucial fee-free financial support to incarcerated individuals and their families,” the group said in a statement.
“This bill would hinder any opportunity to advance critical, progressive reforms,” the statement added.
The bill will now be transferred to the Republican-controlled state House for a vote.