“Most of these people are on the edge, economically, so they are least able to cope—even a few days in jail can mean loss of a job or of housing,” said Buhl Foundation president Fred Thieman in the Courier. “So how they are charged and if they have to pay a bond is a huge factor.”
Kim Williams is running for Magisterial District Judge to help change that.
Williams is a long-time Hill District resident who has worked with Pittsburgh Public Schools and construction with Laborers Union Local #1058. She is running for district 5-2-28, which covers the Hill District, Downtown, Uptown, and parts of Oakland and the Strip District.
Part of Williams' platform is lower cash bail bonds. She wants to set those bonds at affordable prices to reflect' incomes, so unindicted people don’t have to sit in jail merely because they can't afford to put up a bond.
“People can't afford a high-cash bail bond,” said Williams. “Sometimes they are just too high.”
Williams says unaffordable bonds can create a domino effect where people spend days in jail, which can lead to people losing their jobs, which can lead to losing their home. She recalls meeting a man while canvassing who lost his job because he couldn’t afford his bond.
“Sometimes people have to put their houses up,” said Williams. “It is crazy. You shouldn't have to do that.”
Williams also wants to provide more compassion in landlord-tenant cases. She says these cases provide opportunities to connect tenants with social services, especially when people lose cases like failing to pay rent.
“Do you want to make this a consistent issue? Or should we look for solutions like intervention and prevention?” says Williams.
Williams says her degree in psychology from Point Park University is what influenced this aspect of her campaign. She realizes she can’t changed the laws, but, if elected, she wants to ensure that rulings are not too punitive.
“I know magistrate judges have to abide by the laws, but we can help provide resources and other things,” says Williams. “If you are saying you want to help out the community, then help out the community.”
Williams is facing longtime incumbent Judge Oscar J. Petite. In 2017, Mik Pappas ran on a similar platform and succeeded in unseating a longtime magistrate judge in an adjoining district.
Williams recently nabbed endorsements from Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Laborers Union Local #1058 and #373, as well as the Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania. She wants her campaign to be about community members and keeping them front and center as she runs.
“Those are the people that will vote me in,” says Williams. “I am always going to advocate for the community. Whether I win, lose, or draw, I am always going to be involved in the community.”