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The problem with relying on Supervised Release alone to control pretrial defendants is that not only does it cost a lot of money, but it's also a lot like gambling.
WEST PALM BEACH, FL, April 16, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Does Removing Money Bail Really Work?
New Jersey has been praised for their brave stance on removing cash bail for those qualified for supervised pretrial release. News reports and (supposed) statistical reports have testified that crime in New Jersey has improved and jail and prison populations are decreasing. However, the crime rate stats have shown a decrease since 2011. And there is no valid proof that the state's new bail reform policy is responsible for improvements.
Regardless of whether or not New Jersey's new 'no cash bail' reform policies have made improvements; state officials have declared funding is not available within the current budget to continue as is. Therefore, they are looking to the tax payers to cover the costs for a new system that has not yet (officially) been proven as a success.
New Mexico put their new criminal justice system into place in 2017. Since that time, crime has substantially increased to the point where the state's governor came forward with a video intended for Utah (as the state was contemplating reform) to warn them of the devastating effects of relying on pretrial assessment tools and new legislation for inmate release.
Pretrial release with monetary bail requires supervision. Although bail reform advocates continue to suggest that supervising pretrial defendants outside of jail is less expensive than incarcerating them, this is not the case.
What is Supervised Release?
When an inmate is released on Supervised Release while waiting for their court hearing, he or she is assigned to a supervised release officer who monitors their activities and behavior while they are back in the community. The purpose of this method is to allow the person to return to work and provide them with the ability to continue on with their lives.
Those defendants who are released on supervision are restricted from traveling outside a specific area; owning or having a gun (or other weapons) and they are restricted from having any type of contact with victims, witnesses or anyone specified as 'off limits' within the court order. Typically, a curfew is also implemented, and community service is required.
Does Supervised Release Improve the Judicial System?
Allowing pretrial defendants and ex-convicts to be released from jail or prison on Supervised Release gives the person an opportunity to get their lives back without endangering victims and the community (if all requirements from the court order are abided by). As for pretrial, this has been a real attribute for defendants with addiction and mental health problems. The program allows those who had been incarcerated as a consequence of substance abuse or the inability to 'think clearly' to be redirected into a treatment center where healing can take place instead of just being placed behind bars.
How is Supervised Release Alone for Pretrial Dangerous for the Community?
Bail reform states that have selected to remove cash bail as a requirement for pretrial inmate release, now mostly rely on Supervised Release, which puts communities and victims at risk and costs tax payers a lot of money while they are experimenting. Initially, the focal point for removing money bail was to make getting released from jail as easy for the poor as it was for the rich. State officials' assumptions were that housing defendants who have not yet been charged with a crime was wasting money and putting Supervised Release in its place would cut costs.
The problem with relying on Supervised Release alone to control pretrial defendants is that not only does it cost a lot of money, but it's also a lot like gambling. And we're not talking about money now – we're talking about lives and safety.
Supervised Release in masses require human resources to monitor each and every defendant who is released from jail. Historically, this cost was taken care of by cash bail bondsmen and NOT TAX PAYERS. But in bail reform states, such as New Jersey and New Mexico, that's no longer the case.
In Florida, a study was performed by David Krahl, Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at The University of Tampa, involving data collected from state operating budgets for twenty-nine unsecured pretrial release programs between 2015 and 2017. He found that within a three-year period, the pretrial release program cost the state (tax payers) over $95 Million.
The professor also revealed (though bail reform advocates have stressed otherwise), "The notion that large numbers of defendants are 'languishing away in jail' simply because they cannot afford the cost of a surety bond to secure their pretrial release is sheer fiction."
He researched a random sample of over 9300 pretrial inmates throughout Florida county jails for a one-year period and discovered that 56 percent of those arrested (but had not yet been charged) were incarcerated approximately one to three days. Two thirds of the defendants were held in jail for approximately one to seven days. Overall, the average time spent in jail for pretrial inmates was only two days. This report also conveyed that inmates who were released on unsecured pretrial release spent a lot more time in pretrial detention than defendants who were released on cash bonds.
Relying on Location Monitoring for Supervised Release
Supervising released inmates requires constant monitoring. Courts are relying on electronic ankle monitors (aka: GPS ankle bracelets) to track inmates released with the requirement of supervision. These devices are depended upon, not only so supervise release officers know where the defendant is at all times, but to protect the community and ensure he or she will appear in court.
Providing a systematic way for supervise release officers to track defendants more easily made sense initially. But these electronic devices have caused some serious problems. A man on Supervised Release in Minnesota was required to wear the GPS bracelet and rearrested numerous times because the ankle monitor continued to make false alerts. While the defendant was never actually found out of place, he was taken to jail each time. There have been some instances where the man was awoken by police while sleeping in the middle of the night. The series of false arrests took away the man's ability to maintain a steady job.
Turning the table around, if these electronic GPS bracelets are causing defendants to be rearrested by a malfunctioning glitch, how will these devices protect victims and the community when attached to released inmates who have been suspected of (or previously charged with) violent crimes?
Taking into consideration that somehow electronic ankle bracelets are somehow perfected, the courts would still be relying on released inmates to cooperate in keeping the devices attached to their bodies. In most states, it's a felony criminal charge for someone who is required to wear a GPS ankle monitor to remove it from their person. Nevertheless, criminal histories have proven that many of pretrial defendants and ex-convicts have intentionally removed the bracelets instilling great danger for those who were in their path.
A horrific example of the consequences involved with the removal of an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet happened in North Carolina in 2016. A man removed his monitoring device and then murdered three women. Law enforcement was unable to locate the killer while at large for one week. There were just under 800 other instances that same year involving tampered location monitoring devices. Suggestions have been made about improving the GPS devices, but even so, technology can only be relied upon to a certain degree when it involves the safety of victims and communities.
Who Pays for Supervised Release and Electronic Location Monitoring?
While most states attempt to charge inmates for costs involved with supervision, if the defendant or released prisoner is unable to pay for the expenses involved with Supervised Release, it becomes a liability to the state. For example, in Florida, according to Statutes 948.09, item (3) (a) The Department of Corrections may exempt a person from the payment of all or any part of the contribution if it finds any of the following factors to exist:
(a) The offender has diligently attempted, but has been unable, to obtain employment which provides him or her sufficient income to make such payments.
(b) The offender is a student in a school, college, university, or course of career training designed to fit the student for gainful employment. Certification of such student status shall be supplied to the Secretary of Corrections by the educational institution in which the offender is enrolled.
(c) The offender has an employment handicap, as determined by a physical, psychological, or psychiatric examination acceptable to, or ordered by, the secretary.
(d) The offender's age prevents him or her from obtaining employment.
(e) The offender is responsible for the support of dependents, and the payment of such contribution constitutes an undue hardship on the offender.
(f) The offender has been transferred outside the state under an interstate compact adopted pursuant to chapter 949.
(g) There are other extenuating circumstances, as determined by the secretary.
Supervised Release Officers Have Voiced Concerns
State and Federal Supervised Release Officers have confessed that the supervision process involving location monitoring is very time consuming and frequently puts their lives at risk. The Federal Officers stated they were typically responsible for responding to (or investigating) between three to four false alerts per person per month. Many of the alerts happened while they were off duty, but on-call.
What Happens if Someone Violates Supervised Release?
When a defendant violates their order for Supervised Release, he or she is then simply reported to the courts who then issues a warrant for the individual's arrest. That warrant is then supplied to local authorities whom are already overwhelmed with new warrants as it is. Therefore, the defendant is now among a long list of pending warrants to be served and a risk and danger to the community. All the while, the victim is victimized once again and robbed of their day in court. No defendant equals no justice.
How Does Money Bail Protect Communities?
Bail Bondsman have been providing supervised release services at the expense of the defendant (not taxpayers) for many years in the United States. When cash bail and commercial bondsmen are removed from the process of inmate release, any type of follow up supervision then becomes the physical and financial responsibility of the judicial system (tax payers). As mentioned above, the supervised release officers DO NOT go after defendants who have violated their supervised release order. The violator then roams free unless he somehow happens to run into law enforcement and the officer checks and finds his warrant. Otherwise, the possible dangerous criminal is out in the midst of the community.
When a defendant is released on a surety (cash) bond (depending upon the level of risk assessed by the bondsman) the client and/or defendant would be responsible for weekly or monthly check-ins. In addition, the defendant is subject to drug testing or monitoring, if part of the condition of release ordered by the courts. Any violation of the above listed conditions would result in bond revocation. Which in short, the bondsman will apprehend the defendant and bring them back to the jurisdiction of the courts at no cost to the tax payers (or any further burden placed upon local authorities).
Surety Bonds Aim to Protect
When someone applies for and purchases a bail bond to secure a pretrial inmate's release, the insurance company provides a list of questions to be answered in order to secure the release. The insurance company and the bail bondsman's top priority is to decipher whether or not the arrestee is likely to commit another crime or endanger a victim or the community before issuing a bond.
If a pretrial inmate is released on a bail bond then fails to appear in court, it is the bondman's sole obligation to apprehend the suspect and return him to the proper jurisdiction of the court. The bail bondsman has a limited amount of time to locate the suspect, typically before the 60th day of the failure to appear. If the defendant is not returned, the bondsman is responsible for the full cost of bail. Again, this service costs nothing to the tax payers. Needless to say, surety bonds help to protect victims and those within the community at no cost to anyone other than the arrestee.
The Truth About Bail Reform Policies Already in Place
The regions that have put into place new criminal reform bills encouraging the removal of cash bail for misdemeanor and 'low-risk' inmates have been struggling with increased crime rates and/or unobtainable funding to make it work. New Jersey is going broke. New Mexico and Maryland are dealing with heavy crime rates.
Where is the priority? For criminals or for the people?
Modifying criminal justice systems to release pretrial defendants based on their ability to pay for bail or not is a serious threat to communities throughout the country. Although it's unfortunate for those who are innocent to be forced to stay in jail based on their financial circumstances, it's irresponsible for complete judicial systems to be revamped to accommodate potential criminals. Law enforcement and judicial systems are put into place to contain and deter crime, not encourage it.
Bail Bonds Now is a surety bonds company in Florida committed to protecting the constitutional right to bail. We have been providing bail bond services for the community statewide since 2012.
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