While I agree that the state’s criminal justice system always has room for improvement, I do believe in our current criminal justice system. The structure and framework has been tested over time as the most effective. The Judges we elect are knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate to the real world we live in, as opposed to an algorithm created by someone detached from the system trying to number crunch their version of what criminal justice should be in a vacuum. You cannot take the human element out of our criminal justice system. I believe commercial bail is the best form of pre-trial release. Bail reform proponents base their arguments for change on grossly misleading and erroneous statistics, and proposed budgets that are unattainable.
There is a reason bail reform has failed everywhere that has been adopted.
Proponents of Bail Reform
The bail reform proponents continuously tout a figure that 65 to 70% of people are in jail because they cannot afford bail. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) goes as far as saying that most people in jail are there on first offense low level misdemeanor’s. This statement is meant to shock the reader into thinking something must be done to correct this, create outrage. I might be on the other side of this argument if it weren’t for the simple fact that it’s not true.
Eric Siddall, the Vice President of the association of deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles, California, heard the outrageous stats and he decided to conduct his own study.
Mr. Siddall examined the LA County Jail (the largest jail in the United States) and found:
- only 26% of people were bond eligible
- out of that 26%, 91% were in custody on a felony
- 62% were for violence against another person, weapons related charges, or sex offenses
This means less than 1% of the LA County Jail is in custody on a bondable misdemeanor.
Time and again these bloated and misleading statisticts are repeated as eye catching, headline grabbing propaganda, even though when even slightly scrutinized they cannot be defended.
Costs of Bail Reform Algorithm
Let’s jump into cost for implementing the bail reform algorithm. In California, the Senate Assembly Appropriations fiscal analysis estimated 1 to 3 billion dollars a year to run bail reform. A study from Towson State University estimated New York at over 200 million (seems low), and New Jersey at over 500 million a year. The LJAF and Macarthur foundation would have you believe that the county or State would make this money back because they will lower jail population and save tax payers money.
Again, lets examine where they can pretend to justify this. They simply look at the jail population and the cost to run a jail. Basically they divide the cost by population and compare it to the cost of running a jail. What they don’t take into consideration is fixed cost. It’s the same as if I rented a house with two roommates and they decided to move out. Does that mean my rent goes down? No, and neither will taxpayer rent go down if more criminals are released.
Commercial bail insures the court the defendant will appear for all court dates. If he or she misses a court date the bail bond company works with them to quash their warrant. If they are unwilling to take care of it we apprehend them. If we are unable to apprehend them we pay the full penal amount to the court. We do this at no cost to the tax payer. Not only do we make sure our clients are in court, assisting with reminders but we make sure the alleged victim also gets their date in court.
I will end with what recently happened in Spokane, WA. They received a 1.75 million dollar grant from the Macarthur foundation and spent 1.2 million dollars of tax payer money to implement bail reform. They were told that bail reform would reduce jail population and save tax payers money. Since they implemented this program more than a year ago the jail population has increased by 10% and the fail to appear rate sky rocketed so much that Spokane is declining to renew the grant. In New Mexico the Governor came out and said she was duped into implementing bail reform and it didn’t work. In Ohio the legislature has said if bail reform continues to show no cost saving or accountability that they will not allow the algorithm in their State.
I am a proud bail bondsman and passionate about our industry. I bring this information to you because I don’t want shock value statements, false statistics, and outright lies to influence your decision. Bail Bonds are part of the criminal justice system because it’s proven to work. So I ask why we would want to replace commercial bail for an algorithm that has failed everywhere it has been implemented.
If bail reformers want to make a meaningful change to the criminal justice system apply their efforts to social programs that assist kids before they become criminals, rehabilitate drug users, and provide help to remove those that are more suited for mental health treatment than court and jail.