For nearly a decade the bail reform movement snuck around the country quietly working behind the scenes to try and undo a nearly thousand year old legal tradition: bail bonds. For a while they enjoyed some success, largely because the media paid little attention to the issue and all taxpayers heard were some vague promises that bail reform would save millions.
In the past couple of years, however, the worm has turned and reformers are being shown the door. New York and Delaware are the latest states to reject the slow motion disaster that is bail reform. Joining enlightened people in Texas and right here in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County and Denver County who have seen through the shortsighted and dangerous ruse that is catch and release.
Some experts see what happened in New Jersey as representing an important turning point in the struggle against the anti-bail zealots. New Jersey adopted the Arnold Risk Assessment computer program that was supposed to make unbiased decisions regarding who should be held and who should be released. That system recommended releasing nearly everyone as long as they promised to show up for their day in court.
Of course, many broke their promise and the number of court no-shows skyrocketed. Things got so bad that earlier this year the New Jersey Judiciary had to go to the state house with hat in hand asking for more money. It seems trying to track everyone being released was quickly draining their coffers.
Representatives of the judiciary also complained they did not have the resources to go after all the new no-shows (commonly known as ‘fugitives from justice’). A job that used to be done by the bail bondsman at no cost to the state. And on top of all that, there have been several high profile cases of people released without bail committing horrific crimes.
After a year of increased crime and deteriorating public safety the New Jersey legislature recently undid several aspects of their vaunted bail reform legislation. Prosecutors will now be able to detain those accused of gun crimes, those who have sex offenses on their record and anyone who commits another crime while out on bail-free pre-trial release.
The irony is that the number of people being held in New Jersey jails will likely be greater now than it was before bail reform was enacted. And all those new inmates are going to result in new costs for New Jersey taxpayers. In direct contradiction to what reformers promised.
In the wake of the New Jersey debacle professional bail reform lobbyists packed their bags and moved on to Ohio. There they are wheeling out the same old discredited tropes about how bail is evil and that those in jail are the real victims. The usual rogue’s gallery of social justice warriors have emerged from the woodwork to prop up this notion and activist judges have joined the fray.
What they want is for Ohio to adopt the same Arnold Risk Assessment algorithm that has crashed and burned so spectacularly in New Jersey and elsewhere. But some decision makers in Ohio are pushing back. Aware of the slow motion disaster unfolding in New Jersey the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association as well as the much respected Ohio Judicial Conference are demanding that any changes to the bail system be fully funded before the legislation takes effect. This will likely mean new taxes will need to be approved to cover the increased costs that come with bail reform.
At the center of the bail reform storm is the non-profit Arnold Foundation and their privately developed risk assessment algorithm. When it was first trotted out nearly a decade ago it was hailed as a breakthrough that would lead to a new dawn for American justice. Instead, what it’s done is make states across the country poorer and more dangerous and create a generation of fugitives from justice.
Stung by the very public failure in New Jersey and the fact that even the ACLU stood up against recent bail bonding reform efforts in California, the Arnold Foundation was recently forced to change course and distance themselves from their risk assessment tool. (This at the same time Ohio is debating whether to adopt that tool statewide.)
Essentially they admitted their product doesn’t work and that they are going to shift their focus. They will now become a for profit company called Arnold Ventures and engage in direct funding of candidates who share their self-centered view of civility.
But who is going to pay to clean up the mess the Arnold Foundation created? Who will ensure justice for the countless victims whose tormentors were set free by the Arnold risk assessment tool? Who will pay to track down the untold number of new fugitives created by a program whose creators now admit doesn’t work?
Since it began almost a decade ago the Arnold Foundation’s bail reform movement has trampled on victims’ rights, made our cities and towns more dangerous places, created legions of fugitives and saddled taxpayers with tens of millions of dollars in addition costs. That’s quite a record for a single non-profit.
That non-profit is so proud of their accomplishment they’re now changing their name and disowning their pet project. Citizens of Ohio and elsewhere would be wise to take their lead from the Arnold Foundation and disown short-sighted bail reform efforts.