With a great deal of media and social attention turned toward prison reform, another facet of the system is being debated. The topic of bail reform is sweeping the nation, from New York City to San Francisco. This complicated issue has both sides up in arms.
As we covered recently, the New York bail reform debate started with the tragic death of Kalief Browder following many years behind bars without trial. Another, more recent story, comes from San Francisco, where a class action suit has been filed in an attempt to stop the “money bail” system. In both instances the central argument that cash for bail favors the wealthy and hurts those in poverty.
The blanket statement that bail favors one class over the other fails to consider many other factors. Firstly, it is up to a judge, and no one else, to determine the bail amount. This amount is intended to be relative to the crime and to consider factors like flight risk, likelihood of committing more crimes, and previous criminal record. Furthermore, the media fails to differentiate how a bond is issued: secured or unsecured. With a secured bond, there is money or property on the line to ensure a defendant returns to court, while an unsecured bond allows freedom on a promise to return.
If the country moves in the direction of removing “money bail,” and using unsecured bail instead, there runs a much higher risk of people not returning to court. Which can lead to further crime and a higher tax burden, when the state or federal government now has to be accountable for the bond or the expenditure of resources to capture the fugitive.
At the end of October, a group of representatives from the courts, the Departments of Corrections and Justice and Bond agencies met in New Mexico to discuss legislation. Here, Randy Gomez of Moose Bail made the point: “It’s a myth that people are being held in jail because they’re poor. People are being held in jail because they have a bond that’s set for them and if a person is a bad person and they commit a crime and they continue to commit crimes and their bond is set to an amount that they can’t make, that’s not the fault of anybody but the accused because the judges go through a process of determining what bail is set and if a person can’t make their bail because they’re not deserving of a bail that’s lower, that’s not holding people in jail, that’s being fair and protecting everybody else.” The bottom line is that most bail bond agencies will work with an individual to help them afford their bond and also provide a service by working to determine if the defendant is a further risk before providing bail. For more read: Alamogordo Daily News
What do you think? Does “money bail” provide more security for the courts and communities? Is it fair to all people? Is reform needed? If so, what kind and how? Tell us what you think on Facebook and Twitter