Does the Current Bail System Penalize the Poor?

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Michele Hanisee

Not really, suggests the president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. She warns that if the Obama Administration's recent call for the abolition of fixed bail schedules were adopted, the consequences for California’s justice system would be significant.
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6 thoughts on “Does the Current Bail System Penalize the Poor?

  1. How surprising: a Deputy DA thinks the bail system is fair. That couldn’t be because the vast majority of guilty pleas on felonies extorted by The government are when people who really want to fight their cases cannot do so effectively because they’re locked up. Deputy DAs like this author routinely exaggerate defendants’ criminal histories to make sure they cannot bail out. They also routinely overcharge people so the bail will be set higher. When people do bail out, they file “source of bail” motions to get bail revoked, they add charges to increase bail and they go out of their way to ensure that poor defendants are in jail. I am a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles County. I was a Deputy DA in LA and received the same training this author did about how to make sure poor people sit in jail and don’t fight their cases. This article is pathetic.

  2. Finally some common sense about bail reform. People who in jail are not victims. They are not locked up in jail because they are poor. They are there because they are accused of a crime. Anyone who has no priors and who is not violent is already let out of jail on their own recognizance…especially in California where everyone is let out. To say that jails are overcrowded because people cant afford bail is simply false. According to a 2013 study by the JFA Institute and funded by the ACLU, it was determined that only 12.9% of defendants who are in jail pretrial are actually bailable. Not 70% as claimed by those who support bail reform. In New Mexico, the % of defendants that are bailable is even less at 5%. The remaining individuals are not eligible for bail because of immigration holds, probation violations, waiting transfers to other facilities, etc.. To say that these people are there because they can’t afford a bail bond is misleading and wrong. There are definitely a lot of problems in our criminal justice system. Things like speedy trial, drug and alcohol treatment, recidivism, etc. are all problems that need to be addressed. To focus and put a target on the commercial bail industry as the cause of these problems is absurd. Instead of trying to put an effective industry out of business, maybe its time these advocates focus on addressing these real problems and maybe even better, keeping these people out of jail in the first place through better education and stronger families. But unfortunately that is not an issue people like to address….so instead get rid of the evil bail bondsman. It is time for common sense and real criminal justice reform. Ms. Hanisee is spot on and finally calling bail reform for what it really is…a misguided attempt by advocates that fully dont understand the real problems. Great job.

  3. Great article!
    All I keep reading about is from bail reform advocates that want to adopt some type of government supervision system paid for by taxpayers. Basically law enforcement write tickets for crimes and hope that a system of phone calls will encourage the accused to appear in court? Whereas the current bail system requires a friend or family member to pay for the bail cost and “vouch” for the individual thereby creating a network of people assuring the defendant goes to court. A monetary incentive payable to the courts by the bondsman and bond guarantors appears much more likely to induce court compliance than a phone call…. and when the defendant fails to appear and taxpayers foot the cost for a courtroom full of attorneys, judge, witnesses, and victims ….. all except the defendant …. does the court issue another ticket pleading for the defendant to appear because we cannot incarcerate the individual and raise the bail ?
    Maybe a person incarcerated that cannot get out of jail because they cannot raise bail is there because they have burned all of their friends and family and they feel staying in jail to await trial is the best thing for the individual.
    Of course people that are wealthier are more likely to get released on bail and not be convicted of a crime ….. This is often because they can afford a private attorney as opposed to an overworked public defender. As long as bail reformers want to get rid of the cash bail system they should make all legal representation free also. I would think the level of a person’s legal representation is a much stronger determination of the “fairness” of the criminal justice system.

  4. I completely agree with Jason. When Oregon abolished bail in 1974 they said there deposit bail system would be so great that eventually every State would adopt it. Not only did over crowding soar but so did the failure to appear rate. All this on the back of the tax payers who in my opinion should not be financially burdened by criminals. And no big shock but no other State since 1974 has abolished bail.

  5. The problem with the DOJ brief is that it discusses bail universally for all crime, then uses as examples of unfair bail some cases involving petty crimes and infractions. Those types of crime don’t really pose a public safety concern. They fail to address how this proposal will apply to violent and recidivist criminals like rapists, child molesters and murderers. The suggestion that bail should be based upon ability to pay would mean that a murderer would have to be given a bail amount that they COULD pay. How do the proponents of “affordable” bail suggest that bail be set for violent crimes where the accused has a high incentive to flee the jurisdiction? That is the real question.

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