The topic of bail reform continues to circulate around the public consciousness and through the media. We recently discussed New York’s flawed bail reform, as well as Kentucky’s, and are following the issue closely. Not only are communities, advocates, and those associated with the bail industry in opposition, but a large number of New York judges are also expressing ire.
The primary grievance is that many feel defendants are being held for unjust amounts of time due to an unreasonably high bail amount. Essentially, the cash bail opponents argue that low-level offenders are detained, when they could be released on recognizance, avoiding exposure to elements that only lead to deteriorating mental health and more crime. That is a fair point and many states have been or are evaluating fair treatment of those individuals. However, this issue is being grossly misrepresented, as The Marshall Report highlights: (in New York) ”this (low-level) group is only 7 percent of the population jailed on bail.”
SWIFT AND INDECISIVE ACTION
As a result of the current scrutiny and dissension, New York is swinging wildly at reforming its bail system. This initiative, spearheaded by NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, has launched a “bail lab” to examine the “problems” with the bail system, and starting next year, people accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes will be released under court supervision. With no clear guidelines or criteria, and by taking away judges’ discretion, this move could prove tantamount to opening Pandora’s Box.
JUDGES SPEAK UP
One component the media ignores, is the frustrated and vocal opposition to the NY reform voiced by its very own judges. Dan Brown voices some of the judges’ discontent on his blog, WiseLawNY, where he quotes: “The greatest irritant, cited by a number of judges, is that Lippman’s call for reform does not reflect ‘the real work that real judges do,’” his blog continues to offer that what is being identified as the “problem” isn’t the real problem and bail is not being set high enough in many cases. One current example is when Tyrone Howard, a murder suspect, released into a drug diversion program, was arrested for the slaying of Officer Randolph Holder, on Oct. 20. Had his bail been higher, he might have still been incarcerated and that officer would still be alive.
A high-ranking critic has emerged in the form of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin. McLaughlin wrote a scathing letter recently and offered some surprising statistics. Most alarming is the fact that in 2015, NY issued over 50,000 warrants, and out of that number, 34,000 were to “haul back to court defendants who’d been released on bail or with no bail at all.”
With these informed and high-ranking critics so close to this issue, it gives pause to consider the viability of the bail reform argument. What do you think: Do we need broad bail reform? Are the streets any safer if we eliminate or scale down bail? Do the numbers support or challenge the argument? Tell us: Facebook and Twitter
November 20, 2015 / Ryan Serey