We all want a secure and safe community or society where our families and children can live with no fear of crime. However, hundreds of thousands of unconvicted individuals could be spending time in jail simply because they lack the bail money needed to secure a bail bonds for their release. These individuals may be legally innocent.
There have been misinformation and misunderstanding on what “bail reform” means. Ideally, bail reform is great at providing judges with better information about the individuals who have been charged with various crimes but have not been convicted yet. This is helpful for individuals whose likeliness to commit another separate crime if set free or to not show up in court when called upon, is low. Bail reform would, therefore, lead to better judicial decision-making informed by superior information.
Bail reform opponents claim that it would undermine public safety or might even cause the suffering of crime victims while indeed it could help to improve the welfare of society. In this regard, cash bond, which is often set by the judges, means that anyone who is able to afford the bond amount can secure their release even if they have committed some of the more serious crimes. On the other hand, the person unable to raise the bond amount, even if they pose no significant danger to the public or flight risk, remains in jail. This calls for bail bonds reform.
Some of the most dangerous individuals have been released on cash bail system and not according to the risk-based bail system. Despite the risk-based bail system being considered as safer, bail reform opponents still seem to be misleading the public and policymakers by citing the various cases of individuals (such as the Armando Juarez case) who were released on bond when the crime committed included the tragic shooting and killing of a police officer of Dallas and wounding of yet another officer. The use of the risk assessment tool could have highlighted the fact that Armando Juarez was a high-risk criminal on the basis of having previously failed to make a court appearance on multiple occasions while released on bond after being convicted of a felony.
Risk-based bail system keeps us safe by keeping individuals who are a threat to the public in jail. Some individuals might have made mistakes that resulted in their arrest but may not necessarily mean they are dangerous. For instance, people arrested for shoplifting, failure to pay a ticket or cab fare are not very dangerous to society. When jailed, these individuals end up losing their jobs, support networks, and even family connections. They may also face eviction from their own homes. We are much safer when these low-risk individuals are withdrawn from jail or released after booking, as some studies have demonstrated that some of them may come out of jail worse than they went in.
Bail bonds reform, therefore, is geared toward keeping our society safe at all times. We should focus on detaining the individuals considered a threat to the general public and releasing those who are not as dangerous as they await trial. When judges are provided with the necessary information about the risk levels of individuals, they will be able to make informed decisions to facilitate the pre-trial release of ‘harmless individuals’. Bail bond reform is an important step toward the implementation of public safety policies.