Victims of Bail Reform – The Taxpayer

Courts and bail reform

The ACLU has been attacking the way bail is metered out. It has been their mantra that bail reform must happen because the poor and minority people are being victimized by the bail industry. In a statement by the ACLU on their website they say:

“After an arrest — wrongful or not — a person’s ability to leave jail and return home to fight the charges depends on money. That’s because, in most states, people are required to pay cash bail. Originally, bail was supposed to make sure people return to court to face charges against them. But instead, the money bail system has morphed into widespread wealth-based incarceration”.

Here is what the ACLU is not telling the law makers or the taxpayer; it’s up to them to pay for the defendant’s release. The bail reform movement is not about simply letting a defendant out of jail for free, it’s about changing who the responsible party is and the responsible party does expect to receive payment for doing business. Pre-trial businesses are popping up all over these new bail reform states and they are making profits.

Bail Reform

Judges in bail reform states are now releasing defendants with zero dollars or ROR (release on recognizance) but then requiring defendants to adhere to more stringent bail conditions such as wearing an ankle monitor, issuing curfews, and requiring drug or alcohol monitoring. The ACLU has stated that “a person’s ability to leave jail and return home to fight the charges depends on money”. This theory is not changing under the new bail reform policies, and has actually placed defendants in more jeopardy for being rearrested due to violations. Under the guise of working with the poor and minorities, they are attempting to have accused criminal’s be released from jail without the need to pay for bail. The bail system has always been one that gives a guarantee to the court that the defendant will return for each case. Dating back to old English law, people were able to provide bail based on their word. If a defendant failed to appear in court, the person that made the guarantee would have to stand in their place and accept the punishment. Now the bail reform movement is attempting to allow people to be accused of crimes and have no obligation to return.

One of the primary tools that bail reform movement has been using as part of the argument is called the “Public Safety Assessment” that was created by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. This assessment is short and is supposed to be able to predict a human beings future criminal activity. There is a list of standard questions that defendants are asked, and the court compiles the rest to determine if the person will re-offend while out on bail.

The concern with type of assessment is that predicting human behavior has never been 100% accurate and now innocent people’s lives may be in danger. In New Jersey there was a case where a 26 year old man was simply walking along a street when he was shot 22 times. The accused killer, Jules Black, was charged with murder. Black had been arrested by state police just four days earlier and charged with unlawful possession of a handgun. Black also had multiple felony convictions on his record, including resisting arrest, burglary, drug offenses, eluding police, and hindering apprehension. Under the new rules, a risk assessment of Black was done and Black was released without paying any bail.

Freedom Isn’t Free

In bail reform states the judges will assign conditions for bonds in order to be released. Some of these conditions can only be fulfilled by utilizing a court approved facility that will charge for the service. Ankle monitoring is a “per day” fee for the monitoring service and the equipment. Drug and alcohol testing is also charged to the defendant on a per test basis as are the fees that accompany the administration of the programs. Each of these programs is operated by a private business that will collect the and retain the fees; in essence the courts are requiring defendants to use specific businesses to be released from jail. If the defendant can’t afford it they are subject to violating their bond conditions and returning to jail. The bail reform movement enjoys stating that they have a low failure to appear rate but this is also a slight of hand position. If the defendant fails to pay any portion of the fees the pretrial services group will request to have that person removed from the program. The court will then make a decision as to allow the person to remain free or if they will be incarcerated for failure to pay.

If a defendant does fail to appear in court it is now up to the police and sheriff’s to utilize manpower and taxpayer dollars to find the person and re-arrest them. Under the current system the bail bondsman, a privately owned business, is responsible for paying to have that person returned to court by utilizing bail recover agents or other legal means. For a government run facility to have to find the person there are a lot of financially expensive steps that must be taken:

  1. A warrant must be signed (taxpayer funded judges salary).
  2. The warrant must be recorded into the courts (taxpayer funded clerk’s office).
  3. The warrant must be entered into the criminal database (taxpayer funded law enforcement agency for the person doing the data entry).
  4. A warrant must be assigned to a warrant team (taxpayer funded law enforcement supervisor).
  5. Warrant teams must initiate the investigation (taxpayer funded law enforcement officers (usually 2) start the clock on being paid when looking for the suspect.
  6. Law enforcement equipment and supplies must be utilized (taxpayer funded patrol cars, computer equipment, fuel, tires, and maintenance on vehicles).
  7. If the defendant is found and fights (taxpayer funded workers comp to cover the injuries to the officers).
  8. Potential lawsuits from law enforcement interaction with defendants (taxpayer funded lawyers and/or settlements
  9. Transporting the prisoner back to jail (taxpayer funded police equipment and personnel).

Each of these steps must be completed for each person that fails to appear in court on any charges or the defendant simply remains free to commit further crimes if they choose to do so.