Social justice might warrant a more positive reception among the general populace if it wasn’t such a moving target. Why sign up for societal upheaval and condescending advice from your betters when the country has no chance of reaching the promised land?
The campaign for "bail reform" is a perfect example. That’s because bail used to be the reform.
Prior to the advent of bail, suspects were held until their trial date. Release after posting bail was seen as a "progressive" reform to the system that kept the innocent and guilty in the hoosegow awaiting trial.
That may have been fine for the last century, but now enlightened thinkers consider being poor a pre-existing condition like cancer. And just as not bothering to sign up for insurance before landing in the emergency room shouldn’t subject one to financial penalties, not bothering to obey the law and landing in jail should be a cost-free experience too.
Social justice warriors agitating for bail reform disparagingly refer to bail as being "money-based." This overlooks the intent of bail. The goal is not to gouge victims for extra money, like Ticketmaster convenience fees. The goal is to protect the public. Which in this case means showing up to trial.
Financial bonds may not be perfect, but they certainly beats the House Lannister system of holding family members hostage.
Proponents of get out of jail free base their campaign on the exceptions where the system supposedly didn’t function. The Washington Post trotted out Shannan Wise who was held for five days in Baltimore, Md.
She’d been arrested on an assault charge filed by her sister. Wise’s original bail was set at $35,000, but at a subsequent hearing the judge raised the amount to $100,000 because, based on the allegations, the judge believed Wise was dangerous.
This freedom auction was getting expensive. At the original $35,000 her bail bond fee would have been $3,500, or 10 percent, if she didn’t have the entire amount. After the second judge was through with her the fee was $10,000. She scraped up $1,000 as an installment and was cut loose. Then sis dropped the charges.
Naturally leftists believe this is reason to throw the bailee out with the bath water.
It’s important to note two relevant facts. One, the bondsman doesn’t set the bail amount. Judges do. Two, even if the "financial bond" system was abolished, Wise still would’ve spent five days in jail because the judge deemed her dangerous. That’s a fact social justice warriors hope you missed.
The American Bail Coalition reports that Jefferson County, Colo. abolished cash bail in 2010 only to discover it spread the misery. Both those who could afford bail and those who couldn’t spent more time in stir waiting for their case to be evaluated before release.
Even worse for the public, 42 percent of the Jefferson County felony defendants released on the honor system failed to appear for trial.
Eric Helland and Alexander Tabarrok compared the effectiveness of surety bonds (using bail bondsmen) with alternatives. They found defendants who paid the entire cash bond to the court had a failure to appear rate 18 percent higher than surety bonds. Defendants who only made a down payment on their bond to the court were 33 percent higher, while FTA rates for those released under their own recognizance (the "bail reform" gold standard) were 50 percent higher.
The reformers would have you believe people are being put in jail because they’re poor, when the truth is they are in jail because they’ve been arrested.
Contending bail is unconstitutional because poor people can’t afford high bail puts the situation exactly backwards. The amount of bail is in proportion to the seriousness of the crime and the potential danger to the public releasing the accused represents.
It has nothing to do with income; it has everything to do with outcome.
Here’s how social justice bail works in practice. On Jan. 1 of this year, New Jersey essentially eliminated bail. Under the new algorithm regime a computer decides who gets released, no biased dead white judges are involved. So far 85 percent are judged to be harmless.
That includes Jules Black. On April 5 he was arrested and charged twice for possessing an illegal handgun and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun. HAL 2000 decided he was a good risk and cut him loose. On April 9 "no risk" Black murdered Christian Rogers, a father of two.
Being rich shouldn’t mean better treatment just as being poor shouldn’t mean lenient treatment. Bail isn’t for the accused’s benefit. Bail is to protect law-abiding citizens from encounters with people who are better off in jail. It isn’t a perfect system, but it beats the alternative. Just ask Christian Rogers’ mom.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher for the League of American Voters, and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.
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