The Sentencing Commission for the State of Connecticut issued a press release December 17 stating at the request of Governor Malloy the Commission will be studying the current bail system and diversionary programs for their “efficacy and cost effectiveness”. The Commission projected it would take one year to provide recommendations to that state’s legislature meaning there would be no legislative proposals until 2017.
What is occurring in Connecticut is just one more example of a state taking a look at their criminal justice system. The objective, determine if the system is equitable and fair. Are there too many people in prison? Is there a class of criminal offenders being unfairly treated? Are treatment plans or prison sentences the answer? Should everyone deemed by a judge to be a threat to public safety be held in jail without bail pending trial? Should states pay millions of dollars to supervise offenders released pending trial when the private sector currently does it for free?
These are reasonable questions that should be asked. The likely answers will be the problems within the criminal justice system are not coming from the system of bail, but rather the bureaucracy itself. The central problem with most bureaucracies can be traced to the lack of financial incentive and efficiency.
Where there is an absence of profit incentive and threat of financial loss threatening the survival of the program, so too is there an absence of incentive to succeed. The private bail system provides a profound financial incentive to perform. If the bail agent does not succeed in their effort, they cannot survive.
Any consideration of expanding the use of a taxpayer funded pretrial release program using risk assessment tools and eight to five employees is pure folly and exorbitantly expensive. This is evidenced by the failed pretrial release programs in Illinois, Oregon, Kentucky and Washington D.C. Advocates of taxpayer funded pretrial programs point to these states as successes. What they don’t tell you is thousands upon thousands of defendants are failing to appear for court every day and nobody is making a real effort to apprehend those fugitives.
The purpose of bail is not only about allowing an offender to be released from custody pending trial, it’s about making sure that offender appears for trial. The latter condition is where the public systems fails society and where private bail succeeds. There can be no justice when a defendant fails to show for court.
We can only hope the Connecticut Sentencing Commission is comprised of individuals who understand the purpose of bail as it relates to public safety and serving victims of crime. They need to tune out the voices of those who believe nobody should be required to post bail. Groups who support the concept all criminal offenders should be set free on a promise to appear for court. Rest assured the private bail industry will take every opportunity to provide the Commission with the facts they need to make an informed recommendation to the legislature.