Resource: Welchen v. Sacramento

By: Equal Justice Under Law

October 10, 2016

Gary Welchen is a 50-year-old resident of Sacramento. Gary Welchen is an indigent arrestee who was kept in the county jail solely because he was too poor to pay the amount of money that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department demanded for his release. Gary has experienced homelessness on several occasions, and his sole source of income is social security disability payments. He represents himself as an individual and represents a Class of similarly situated people subjected to Defendants’ wealth-based detention system.

In Sacramento, arrestees face two different outcomes depending on their wealth status. If Gary had been rich enough to pay $10,000 — like many wealthier people accused of the same offense — he could have walked out of his jail cell immediately under Sacramento County’s pay-for-freedom pretrial justice system. Because the only criterion standing between Gary and freedom was his ability to make a monetary payment, we argue Sacramento operates a wealth-based detention system.