John Oliver recently took up the issue of bail in his most recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I say episode because most of what he espoused on the bail system was fiction. I watch this show every so often and I do find Oliver funny. However, having heard his thoughts on bail I now have to question the veracity of any topic he chooses to address.
Because his show is only 30 minutes long Oliver must paint pictures with broad strokes, no time for specifics and details. John Oliver uses an example of one man jailed for a suspended license, unable to pay a $1000 bond, so he sat in jail. What is not disclosed is, why this man’s license was suspended? Was he convicted of DUI or was it too many points against his license for speeding or other traffic violations? Then there is the fact he could ostensibly afford to pay the cost of maintaining (gas and insurance) the car he was driving illegally when was arrested, yet he could not pay a $100 bond premium?
Oliver then cites a statistic 38.5 percent of persons in custody pending trial in New Jersey cannot afford bail. Really? Is it possible most if not all of this 38.5 percent had other reasons they were unable to bond out of jail? Perhaps they had outstanding warrants for crimes committed in other jurisdictions, they decided to stay in jail to get time served on their crime or the defendant is a repeat offender and having burned all their bridges there was nobody willing to provide help with bail. The devil is in the details.
John Oliver was not very kind to Pre-Trial Services either. His video spoof intended to show how easy the appearance process was, that statistically everyone shows up for trial. Instead, he made the taxpayer funded employees at Pre-Trial Services appears as though they do very little to monitor or assure offenders appear in court. I’m not going to say these employees do nothing, I will say what they are doing is already being done by the commercial bail industry at no costs to taxpayers.
Finally, at what point do people like John Oliver who can stomach nonviolent transactions like someone selling single doses of heroin to America’s kids, begin to think about the victims of these crimes and their families? How about business retailers who endure property theft on a regular basis. Should those people committing these crimes not be arrested or if arrested, be assured of appearing in court by posting bond?
The John Oliver’s of the world seem to have a level of tolerance for nonviolent crime, that people should not be held accountable for their actions. It’s naïve to think everyone shows for court. Just ask any county sheriff across the country and they can show you hundreds and thousands of outstanding warrants for criminal offenders who failed to show for court. There are so many in fact the U.S. Today did a series of articles in 2014 about how a significant number of prosecutors were not extraditing fugitives arrested in other jurisdictions citing cost.
John Oliver, I sincerely hope neither you nor a family member is ever a victim of a crime. Should this ever happen, I suspect you would want that person arrested and jailed and some form of guarantee they will appear for trial if released from custody. Rest assured a bail agent is always standing by ready to carry out their obligations to the state to make sure that offender will be in court. That’s a wrap.