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Wealth should not determine justice

April 8, 2019 10:04 pm

Cash bail has been eliminated for most misdemeanor charges and nonviolent felony charges as part of the New York state budget. It’s a good move for defendants who simply can’t afford bail, but the consequences could be bigger than this magnanimous act.

The change will end bail for 90% of defendants in New York state. So what’s next?

Bail is the subject of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

But bail procedures have changed many times over the years. We are living in one of those times.

Bail reform is not new. In 1966, Congress enacted the first federal guidelines for setting bail, according to the Heritage Foundation. You may be surprised to learn the goal then was the same as now: preventing the unnecessary detention of indigent defendants. It meant a presumption of release, which could be reversed with evidence that the defendant was likely to flee in order to avoid prosecution.

In the 1980s, the philosophy of bail underwent another dramatic change. Under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, courts were authorized to consider whether a defendant might pose a danger to the community when determining pretrial release. The law also set forth specific circumstances under which defendants could be denied bail, such as capital offenses, violent offenses and repeat felony offenses.

The issues of unnecessary detention and danger to the community bring us to where we are today.

The bail system is unfair to low-income defendants. Taxpayers spend too much on the incarceration of nonviolent offenders who should not be behind bars in the first place. Hudson 4th Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann rightly stated that bail can be misused against minority defendants.

On the other side of the debate, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka said the legislation doesn’t give judges the ability to make a determination based on whether the defendant could be considered dangerous.

Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione said one purpose of bail is to make sure defendants return to court. He added the weight of evidence, employment and the safety of the community “have fallen by the wayside.”

Ultimately, judges and attorneys will have to consider their own responses to each case. In the meantime, one factor transcends all the others.

“It’s really about who has money and who doesn’t,” Mussmann said of bail and bail reform. Can we do a better job with bail? Yes, because wealth should not mean justice.

Comments
Exactly... in Greene County we pray on the poor. Look at who we detain. By building a megaprison/jail, at $90 million, we create more poverty.

We avoid the more challenging work creating non-seasonal minimum wage jobs, protection families (the detainee is usually ruined), and instead fund human cage watchers. Not a good answer.

Fund and make ATI (alternatives to incarceration) a standing committee.

Fire Shaun Groden, a jail we can’t justify is his only project.

ALL of the money for a new monster in Coxsackie simply leaves the county - for 30 years.

Wake up Greene County. Now is the time.

Thanks Daily Mail.
Bail was never intended as a dearly expensive employment program for jail guards who are fed victims by a Sheriff's Office whose budget includes their operating costs as part of its fiefdom. That is the systemically corrupting configuration here in Greene County, which has also warped logic to pass authorization for a $90,000,000 final cost jail bond, for a jail that bail reform and other social changes has rendered completely unnecessary. We would save ourselves from the crippling debt of this bond by continuing to board out prisoners to appropriate venues while pursuing reductions in our jail population thanks to such programs as bail reform. $90M is a mighty expensive employment program to justify building an unnecessary jail in Greene County. That's about $1.7M per jail guard job. Deployed directly as an employment program such an expenditure would generate between 1,050 - 2,500 jobs with very healthy salaries and benefits. In other words, it's not only a corrupt and stupid policy, it's lunatic. At the end of the day, we're talking about 55 or so jail guard jobs in Greene v. Hudson, Columbia, Albany and surrounding counties. Lunatic.
Do the math, Greene County. Spend $90,000,000 to "save" 55 or so jail guard jobs ='s an outlay of at least $1.7M per jail guard job, almost twice that in reality, because the jail guard jobs will have to be subsidized separately by our expense budget funded directly by our taxes!
$90,000,000 to "save" 55 jail guard jobs, most of whom plan to retire onto pensions within 5-7 years? That's a subsidy of over $1.7 M per 'saved job.'
For $90,000 we could 'create 18,000 jobs paying $50,000 annual salaries + benefits. We currently have under fifty jail detainees. Get it? This is crazy.