Thurman Thomas — one of the Buffalo Bills’ most legendary players and a key to the team’s four-year Superbowl streak in the 1990s — appeared before the Erie County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Thursday to call for bail bond reform.
Thomas argued that the bail system is inherently biased toward the wealthy. The County Legislature, chaired by April Baskin, is considering a resolution that would urge the state to eliminate cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanors.
Thomas sees a grave injustice for poor families who cannot afford to pay bail or to pay the 10% fee charged by bail bond companies.
“Those who have to wait in jail because they cannot afford bail often end up losing their jobs, can fall behind on their bills or may even have their property repossessed,” Thomas said.
Thomas wants the NFL and the Players Coalition to take on the issue of bail reform together. Current and former players across the league are advocating for criminal justice reforms. Bail practices disproportionately hurt and incarcerate minority offenders and offenders from low-income families.
Earlier this year, New York Jets owner Chris Johnson, with three former players, sent a letter to the State Legislature pressing for action.
Some legislators — who face reelection next year — expressed concerns about the costs associated with changing bail rules and asked whether the reform would impede judges’ discretion. The resolution is expected to move to the full body for a vote. The resolution has been amended three times since March, and Baskin says it’s now ready for approval.
Thomas explained that those who cannot make bail are often family breadwinners, and that, in some cases, people who are innocent agree to bad plea bargains just so they can return home.