ASNPAC Op-ed on CA Bail Reform
A New Jersey incident uncovers hidden risks of bail reform. Don’t experiment with California public safety systems. We are a community, and being a member of society demands responsibilities as well as rights. When someone commits a crime they should pay what they owe to society, and they are responsible for cleaning up their own mess. People who are jailed have the right to seek help from a wide selection of bail agents, and this system keeps criminals accountable for making their court appearances at no expense to the rest of us. Instead of promoting responsibility and protecting these constitutionally granted rights, the bail reform measures introduced by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) reward criminals at the expense of moral citizens and burdens taxpayers. Advocates of bail reform measures have promised the public that persons accused of serious or violent felonies would face justice in the new system as they do now. These bail reform measures are modeled after social experiments which went into effect in the state of New Jersey this year. Already, it’s clear that reform of the justice system in New Jersey promised more justice and safety than reformers could deliver. On Thursday June 15, 2017 three men were arrested in New Jersey for trafficking 7.7 pounds of heroin. According to an incident report by NJ.com, Edwin Gomez, Steven Rodriguez, and Steven J Torres were shipping heroin from Mexico City to New York City at the time of their arrest in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As of June 29, 2017 the three men were released from the Atlantic County Jail because the bail reform measures let them roam free among the public. This New Jersey case uncovers deep flaws in the risk assessment process, and similar procedural oversights could lead to even more dangerous situations in California. California has a population of 39 million people, and the state court system is responsible for processing over 7.5 million legal cases a year. Our state also shares a border with Mexico, whose drug trafficking organizations are the largest foreign suppliers of heroin to the United States. The current unemployment rate in Kern County is 9.9%, nearly double the statewide average. The blow back from social experiments on the justice system will hit California’s Central Valley the hardest. Scott Spielman, the Assistant District Attorney of Kern County, has said 60 % of people who are cited and released for misdemeanors in Kern County go missing for their scheduled court appearances. On the other hand, the rate of failures to appear at court for people released from custody on a bail bond are less than 4%. Dissolving current systems of criminal accountability is not only a reckless policy, it’s also pointless in terms of upholding the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system. Citing and releasing felons could be devastating to the safety of the public, and harms the vulnerable communities criminals are released into. Bakersfield, Fresno, and Stockton are lined with white brick roads; jails in the Central Valley will dump inmates into your backyard. The punishment of criminals is not the only way to create safer neighborhoods, but destroying the systems that are in place to keep criminals accountable is a reckless and dangerous experiment. When delinquents are given a direct path away from justice, it sends a message to others that law enforcement will let crime slip through the net of public safety.