Fetterman supported ending cash bail ‘so we don’t criminalize poverty and we don’t criminalize race’

Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman once advocated for the elimination of cash bail in an effort not to “criminalize poverty” or “criminalize race.”

The revelation of Fetterman’s prior remarks favoring an end to cash bail come after Huffington Post reported late last month that the candidate “has not advocated for eliminating cash bail or called for ‘defunding’ the police.”

Speaking about the Democratic Party’s mission as it relates to criminal justice reform in 2018, Fetterman said the party should support ending cash bail because “we are the party of second chances. We are the party that believes — we don’t believe in death by incarceration.”

“We’re the party that doesn’t want to criminalize things like marijuana, small-scale marijuana possessions. We don’t want to criminalize. We want to get rid of cash bail where it’s appropriate, so we don’t criminalize poverty, we don’t criminalize race,” Fetterman told the Delco Young Democast at the Pennsylvania Young Democrats Convention in August 2018.


John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic senate candidate, speaks during a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
(Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Crime has become an important concern for voters ahead of the November elections, with a poll last month indicating that a majority view Republicans as more equipped to handle the issue. Crime has become a more important issue to voters than abortion according to the poll.

According to the survey produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates in New York City, the economy (89%), education (77%) and inflation (76%) topped out the issues voters consider “highly important” as midterms loom, but those issues were followed closely by crime at 69%, which beat out abortion at 62%.

Fetterman — Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor and former mayor of Braddock, an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh — has come under scrutiny for his record on crime as his race against Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, continues to tighten. Fetterman once had a sizable lead over Oz, but is now only 3.7 percentage points ahead, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

As first reported by the Washington Free Beacon on Monday, Fetterman said during a 2018 questionnaire for Reclaim Philadelphia, a group founded by former staff and volunteers with the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, that the pardons board “should be used as a bully pulpit for the larger issue of criminal justice reform.”


Pennsylvania Senate Democratic nominee John Fetterman and Pennsylvania Senate GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Pennsylvania Senate Democratic nominee John Fetterman and Pennsylvania Senate GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz.
(Mark Makela, Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“There is a real opportunity to build a statewide platform that elevates and exposes the damage created by the school-to-prison pipeline, the prison industrial complex, and ‘tough on crime’ policies like ‘Stop and Frisk’ and cash bail,'” Fetterman said. “Restorative justice to me is just common sense.”

Throughout his time as chair of the state’s board of pardons, Fetterman has also cast several controversial votes to release individuals who were previously convicted of certain crimes.

Fetterman last year cast the lone vote in a failed bid to free Alexis Rodriguez, who was convicted of murdering the 17-year-old son of a Philadelphia police officer in 1989.

In March of last year, Fetterman cast the lone vote in a failed bid to commute the sentence of John David Brookins, who is serving a life sentence after being convicted of murdering a woman with a pair of scissors.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Fetterman cast a crucial vote that led to the release of a man convicted of first-degree murder in the 1969 killing of an elderly woman.

Fetterman and Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz are running to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring.

Fetterman and Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz are running to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring.
(Photographer: Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In December, Fetterman, who chairs the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, voted along with the rest of the board to release Edward Silvis, fulfilling the unanimous vote requirement to recommend clemency. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf granted Silvis’ request on Feb. 15, releasing him from prison.


Silvis, now 82, was serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of 87-year-old Alice Siggins, a retired teacher, during an attempted robbery in her Armstrong County home on April 12, 1969.

Fetterman and Oz will face off against one another in four weeks to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.

Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.