Here we go again! Once again, my industry has been targeted in another well-intended but misguided attempt at justice reform. Despite what the data shows, the proponents of judicial reform can’t help but try to point at the bail industry as one of the issues. This time they want a 10% option; yet again, they choose a solution that will do nothing to actually solve the “problem” that doesn’t even exist in Connecticut.
The 10% option is a solution for a non-existent problem which simply does nothing to help those it’s purported to. In 2017, PA 17-145 addressed what little issues CT had with indigents allegedly being held simply for a lack of funds. The legislation sponsored by then Governor Malloy, eliminated bonds on misdemeanor charges. It also required courts to take finances into consideration when setting bail. Lastly, it required the courts to bring defendants back in front of the judge for a reconsideration of the bail within two weeks if bail is not posted. CT has one of the lowest rates of incarceration in the country.
If the proponents of the 10% option truly want to help those in need, the solution is simple and inexpensive: lower the surety/cash bond amounts or release on recognizance. If there are any changes to the Practice Book to be considered it should be to limit pretrial-release to 2 options: PTA or cash/surety. This change could mean the elimination of 50 to 100 million of spending in the Court Services Division. State run pre-trial release is very expensive, ineffectual and has obscured the intent of the bail commissioner’s office and the 8th Amendment.
As proven by statistics presented to the Sentencing Commission in the past years, no other form of pretrial release performs nearly as well as the bail industry. In previous studies it was shown that all forms of pretrial release result in similar numbers of failure to appear; however, none of them with the exception of surety bail hold the defendant accountable by going out to recover them and bring them back in front of the judge. All other forms of pretrial release rely on the offender being re-arrested while in the commission of another crime, taxpayer-funded police making the arrest, or the unlikelihood of a “TSI” or turn self in.
The 8th Amendment’s intention was to give the defendant protection from the accuser by allowing them the opportunity to be released free from the burdens of the state during the pendency of their case. All forms of state sponsored release compromise that right and often inflict punishment/seizures before any guilt has been found. GPS, random drug testing, mandatory classes and programs are not the least restrictive form of release, are very expensive, and have little effect on recidivism.