RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It seems pretty simple: If you get arrested but don’t want to stay in jail until your trial, you can make a promise to come back to court by paying your cash bond.

But in a new ad in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Ted Budd is attacking Democrat Cheri Beasley over the changes she wants to make to that system.

Does that ad accurately capture the issue? With less than a week until Election Day, CBS 17 News took a closer look at the claims in the ad placed by the Budd campaign.

THE CLAIM: The ad says that under Beasley, “dangerous criminals will get out of jail, free” and goes on to say she “supports a radical new policy that puts dangerous criminals back on the street instead of locking them up while they’re awaiting trial.” Video in the ad shows Beasley’s website with the text “ending the cash bail system” highlighted.

THE FACTS: The text shown in the ad lacks context because it leaves out the final four words of the sentence: “particularly for nonviolent offenders.”

Brandon Garrett, a law professor at Duke University, not only teaches a course on the subject of bail reform but also is the court-appointed independent monitor for a reform program in Harris County, Texas.

He said in that county — the nation’s third-largest, with a population of 4.7 million and a county seat of Houston — the focus has been on “low-level misdemeanors” and decidedly not those like domestic assault, repeat DUI or another violation that puts public safety at risk.

He had a practical reaction to the ad.

“The U.S. Senate is not making decisions on bail,” he said.

But just what would reforming cash bail involve, and why is it such a big deal?

It applies to the period of time after someone is arrested and before the case goes to trial. The idea is that paying cash bail gives the accused person an incentive to make sure he or she returns to court, and that person gets that money back once the trial is over.

“Other jurisdictions have moved away from that and said, ‘We want the judges to be squarely focused on public safety, and not be using cash as a proxy,’” Garrett said.

Reform advocates say what the current system ultimately does is punishes the poor.

“If they are wealthy, and it’s a serious case, they can get out,” Garrett said. “Let’s say the amount is just $1,000 — for some people, they can’t pay even $100, and so no matter how minor the case is, they’re going to end up in the jail,” he said.

It also props up the bond industry. A person who can’t afford to pay the jailer directly may instead hire a bail bond company, which can take care of that bail amount for a fee.

A common rate is 10 percent — but it could be higher or lower, and a judge has no control over where it’s ultimately set.

“They may think they’ve imposed this huge cash bond that’s going to keep the dangerous person in, but a bonds person releases them,” Garrett said.

He says an argument could be made that the current system is structured to “provide income to these private bonds, people who are profiting off of our jails” — and adds that it’s something both Budd and Beasley should be able to agree on.

“You would think that there would be a bipartisan consensus that we don’t want, sort of, profiteering with a motive to incarcerate,” Garrett said.

The program in Texas began after a federal court ruled that the county’s cash bail system was unconstitutional because it discriminated against poor defendants.

Since the reforms began, he said misdemeanor arrests have dropped every year.

“And so many more people have their freedom, and crime has gone down,” he said. “That’s something people often think, that there’s this trade-off — we need to either lock people up, or there’ll be crime.

“But actually, a lot of jailing is counterproductive and even increases crime. And so we’ve seen that you can have it both ways, actually, protecting people’s rights is actually good for public safety.”