Aiming for fairness, Norfolk puts limits on cash bail

NORFOLK — The top prosecutor in Virginia’s second largest city says his office will end cash bail in many cases.

The changes are an effort to avoid the “criminalization of poverty” while making the system fairer for people of color.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood said: “If you’re poor and you happen to be black, then chances are your rate of incarceration is higher.”

Underwood said bail shouldn’t “needlessly” make a defendant’s life harsher than it should be.

Someone charged with a misdemeanor can be released without putting up bail. Someone accused of a felony can be released without bond under certain conditions like pretrial supervision.

Defendants would still be subject to cash bail in cases of domestic violence, felony violence, stalking and other violent crimes.

RELATED STORY: Commonwealth’s Attorney in Norfolk no longer prosecuting simple pot possession

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.