Q&A Of the Day – Will “Bond Reform” in Broward Make SFL Less Safe?
Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Would love to hear your analysis of this policy change. Would also love to hear you ask Sheriff Tony about his office approving it.
Bottom Line: Today’s note included a link to a story reform the May 2nd order by Broward County Chief Judge Jack Tuter mandating those arrested on third degree felony or lessor charges be released without having to post bond (being issued paperwork for a pending court date on their charges in the process). Quoting Judge Tuter: I saw a great disparity between, especially minority communities, who did not have the money to post convenience bond and often had to sit in jail on low-level, non-public safety type crimes. So, what do we make of this decision? Will it make South Florida less safe?
Before wading into what we know about this type of “reform”, based on what we’ve seen elsewhere, there are facts to consider which potentially justify this approach:
- Prisons are overcrowded
- Staffing shortages for prison guards
- Those impacted would be released anyway if they had the money to post bond
Now, the commentary by the judge leans exclusively on social considerations – which rubs me the wrong way. The point of the criminal justice system is two-fold. Holding perps accountable for their crimes – which aids in public safety and to provide justice for victims. Does the judge’s reasoning for this order address those realities? No, it’s built around social engineering, as it’s a woe is the minority perpetrator argument. As a matter of principle, it’s demonstrable that the judge’s commentary runs counter to the role of the criminal justice system.
Our system of justice isn’t built around the principle that there should be different standards of justice based upon one’s race and means. Ironically, this is the very argument used by the judge to justify the decision. When a bond is paid, that’s a form of accountability during the process which also helps financially support the criminal justice system. When one’s released on the same offense without financial consideration, there’s no accountability at that stage in the process. In other words, the judge’s rationale is directly at odds with the job he’s tasked with performing. And when criminals perceive a lack of accountability there’s often an increase in criminal activity.
In determining the view of the possible regarding Broward’s bond reform, there’s a lot we can infer from other communities which have done it previously. The concept of “bond reform” has been popular with social justice groups over the past decade and it was exacerbated over the past couple of years during the Defund Police movement. As a result, we have accredited studies which have produced conclusive results.
An accredited and peer reviewed study entitled Does Bail Reform Increase Crime? An Empirical Assessment of the Public Safety Implications of Bail Reform in Cook County, Illinois conducted by the University of Utah, studied what happened in recent years in Cook County Illinois, which includes Chicago. It was telling. Here’s a quote from the study summation:
Properly measured and estimated, after more generous release procedures were put in place, the number of released defendants charged with committing new crimes increased by 45%. And, more concerning, the number of pretrial releasees charged with committing new violent crimes increased by an estimated 33%. In addition, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, the Study’s data appears to undercount the number of releasees charged with new violent crimes; and a substantial number of aggravated domestic violence prosecutions prosecutors dropped after the changes, presumably because batterers were able to more frequently obtain release and intimidate their victims into not pursuing charges.
So, a minimum of 45% of those released without posting bond were apprehended for committing new crimes before they’d even be tried for their prior crimes – with a 33% increase in violent crime activity. That’s declarative. There’s no doubt that “bond reform” in Cook County has led to sustainably more criminal activity that’s commonly been violent. Now, you can also find studies which will cite reduced prison populations, and consider that success. You’ll also have those like the Brennan Center’s which attempts to assert that there aren’t conclusive results for bail reform. But it's not complicated, if new crimes are being committed by people who’d already be in jail without bail reform... So, despite the efforts at spin out there – the facts are clear. Yes, prison populations are likely to be lower with Broward’s bail reform. Yes, South Florida generally is likely less safe as a result.