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July 22, 2017

Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul make the case for bail reforms

In this New York Times op-ed, the notable pair of Kamala Harris and Rand Paul explain the reasoning behind their new bill to reform bail practices.  The piece is headlined "To Shrink Jails, Let’s Reform Bail," and here are excerpts:

Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally.  Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.

Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children — or their life.  As criminal justice groups work to change sentencing and mandatory minimum laws, we must also reform a bail system that is discriminatory and wasteful.

Excessive bail disproportionately harms people from low-income communities and communities of color.  The Supreme Court ruled in Bearden v. Georgia in 1983 that the Constitution prohibits “punishing a person for his poverty,” but that’s exactly what this system does. Nine out of 10 defendants who are detained cannot afford to post bail, which can exceed $20,000 even for minor crimes like stealing $105 in clothing.

Meanwhile, black and Latino defendants are more likely to be detained before trial and less likely to be able to post bail compared with similarly situated white defendants.  In fact, black and Latino men respectively pay 35 percent and 19 percent higher bail than white men.

This isn’t just unjust. It also wastes taxpayer dollars.  People awaiting trial account for 95 percent of the growth in the jail population from 2000 to 2014, and it costs roughly $38 million every day to imprison these largely nonviolent defendants.  That adds up to $14 billion a year.

Bail is supposed to ensure that the accused appear at trial and don’t commit other offenses in the meantime.  But research has shown that low-risk defendants who are detained more than 24 hours and then released are actually less likely to show up in court than those who are detained less than a day....

Our bail system is broken. And it’s time to fix it.  That’s why we’re introducing the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act to encourage states to reform or replace the bail system.  This should not be a partisan issue.

First, our legislation empowers states to build on best practices.  Kentucky and New Jersey, for instance, have shifted from bail toward personalized risk assessments that analyze factors such as criminal history and substance abuse. These are better indicators of whether a defendant is a flight risk or a threat to the public and ought to be held without bail.

Colorado and West Virginia have improved pretrial services and supervision, such as using telephone reminders so fewer defendants miss court dates and end up detained.  These nudges work.  Over the second half of 2006, automated phone call reminders in Multnomah County in Oregon, resulted in 750 people showing up in court who otherwise may have forgotten their date.

Instead of the federal government mandating a one-size-fits-all approach, this bill provides Department of Justice grants directly to the states so each can devise and carry out the most effective policies, tailored for its unique needs.

Enabling states to better institute such reforms also honors one of our nation’s core documents, the Bill of Rights. In drafting the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits excessive bail, the founders sought to protect people from unchecked government power in the criminal justice system.

Second, our bill holds states accountable. Any state receiving support must report on its progress and make sure that reforms like risk assessments are not discriminatory through analyses of trends and data.  This will show that it’s possible to demand transformation, transparency and fairness.

Finally, this bill encourages better data collection. Data on the pretrial process is notoriously sparse. By collecting information on how state and local courts handle defendants, we can help guarantee that reforms yield better outcomes.

July 22, 2017 at 10:32 AM | Permalink


When a lawyer and a doctor get together, it means only one thing. The public is about to get truly fucked.

Someone who cannot make bail, especially low bail, cannot function in the outside world. Even if they were only very disabled, their family could bail them out. That the family does not is a judgement that should be respected, because the family is the world's expert on the individual.

The lawyer and the doctor want these people streeted to make more fees for their respective professions, to the massive detriment of everyone else. They will hurt victims, most likely nearby family members, but also strangers. They will drop real estate prices everywhere they go. They will accost, harass, and fully deter tourists from coming to the city. Walk from City Hall, to Constitution Hall, about a half a mile, in Philadelphia. It is like a franchise. Every block has a guy yelling he is going to kill you. In New York, every block should charge admission for the Freak Show. Never mind the many people who have been randomly pushed onto the subway track and killed by the customer of the doctor and of the lawyer. Every one of those murders is 100% the fault of the lawyer profession because of the long and unchanging history of their customers.

If the legal system fails to compensate the public for all the damages from the totally irresponsible, grossly negligent release of these clients, there is full justification in formal logic for the hunting and for the torture killing of appellate judges. To deter.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 22, 2017 3:17:32 PM

Socialized bail - who would have ever thought?

Posted by: BourneintheUSA | Jul 31, 2017 6:52:20 PM

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