Michael J. Whitlock
June 15, 2021
Early on in my upbringing, I would do something stupid, and my dad would give me a sideways look and sometimes a slap to the back of the head and ask “where is your #%$*ing common sense?” From that point on, I tried to limit making similar errors in judgment as I rolled through life to reasonable success.
Criminal Justice reform efforts over the last several years have been less than nuanced, to say the least. Reformers have taken an all or nothing approach and where this has been successful, has caused a steady increase in crime across the nation; the dreaded “unintended consequences.”
Alaska, New York, and Utah are three states who recently rolled back enacted bail reform after a meaningful increase in crime and public safety concerns. The city leaders of Buckhead, a commercial and residential area located north of Atlanta, announced this week sufficient funds have been raised for a referendum to break away from Atlanta. If passed, Buckhead could run their city as they see fit, including creating their own police department that would effectively keep their residents safe. Buckhead has seen a spike in crime over the last few years, largely, because of legislation enacted by the Atlanta City Counsel that decriminalized a variety of offenses. They have had enough.
The State of Colorado recently averted fate when Senate Bill 21-273 did not carry sufficient votes to pass out of the Finance Committee in the General Assembly. That bill, if enacted, would have automatically granted zero bail to most misdemeanor offenses and class 4, 5 and 6 felonies. Members of the bail industry, including myself, small retailers, and a large representation of the law enforcement communities pointed out just how short-sighted it was to approve the wholesale release of criminal offenders without condition. Fortunately, six of eleven committee members agreed, and the bill died.
In 2020, 9.5 million Californians voted no on Prop 25 agreeing most everyone should have the right to bail. Undeterred, that state’s legislature is considering new legislation (SB 262) that would go against the wishes of their constituents and severally reduce the use of bail. Senate Bill 262 has already passed out of the California Senate and is pending before the Public Safety Committee in the Assembly.
More and more citizens and legislators recognize holding offenders accountable is critical to a functioning criminal justice system and maintaining public safety. That the reforms being proposed are a bridge too far. Common sense will prevail eventually, though it may take some time and regrettably, an ever-increasing crime rate.