Crime victims, increased crime, a degraded criminal justice system and unsafe communities are never discussed by supporters of reform efforts that make it easier for criminal offenders. All focus is on a manufactured number of individuals arrested on probable cause of committing a crime, who are perceived as being held in custody pre-trial simply because they cannot afford bail. An assertion that has been debunked each time the argument has been put forth as fact.
There have been many efforts through the years to ease the strain, stress and economic impact on those arrested for crimes. In turn, attempting to move the burden from those individuals to those law-abiding taxpayers who have suffered from their actions. In 2013 the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators agreed on Resolution 4, voting to pick-up the criminal welfare baton and reignite efforts to reduce accountability for criminal offenders. The Chief Justices returned to their respective states and began convening committees to study criminal justice reforms, pushing a risk assessment tool over secured release.
These committees were/are comprised of state judges and attorneys with the exception of Indiana, that did permit a bail agent to sit on the committee, though without a vote. We’ve seen lobbying by Justices in Connecticut, Indiana, New Mexico, New York and Utah. Each of these states, with the exception of New York have been negatively impacted by enacted criminal welfare legislation or a change in the rules of criminal procedure addressing bail.
As documented on usbailreform.com, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s statewide criminal welfare legislation has had a devastating impact on public safety in that so many repeat offenders are being released back into the community unsupervised resulting in an increased rate of failures to appear and offenders committing new crimes. It’s a mess. Similarly, Houston, Texas has adopted a comparable release policy and seeing the same results. More than seventy percent of those on free release have committed new crimes since the new policy was implemented.
Then there are the lawsuits filed in California, Florida, Georgia and Texas to name a few. The common complaint, rich people post bail while poor people sit in jail. That no one should sit in jail one second longer than someone who was able to post bail. Cases filed in Texas and Georgia have been appealed to the Fifth Circuit and Eleventh Circuit respectively. It’s generally accepted, one of these cases will make its way to the U.S Supreme Court.
While legislative efforts in California and Texas to implement criminal welfare legislation have been in frustrated, those efforts continue. This is largely due to the efforts of the bail industry, some prosecutors, crime victim groups and fiscal and public safety minded legislators.
So, are supporters of criminal welfare reform winning? They have won a few battles but the war is not yet over. The real winners in this constitutional battle are those who have been arrested for committing crimes who have benefited wherever policies permitting their free, unsupervised release pre-trial has been instituted. Jail has been liked to a school and the students of these schools are passing with flying colors.