If you’re a bail bond agent in Lakewood or elsewhere in Colorado, that odor you smell isn’t imaginary. It’s the real deal, wafting across the country from Illinois, California, and New York. In those states, proponents of cash bail “reform” (i.e.: eventually getting rid of it completely by shoving poorly written legislation down the throats of millions of ill-informed voters) are still at it, conniving, cajoling, employing ham-fisted attempts to get their way – public safety be damned. There’s more.
Cash bail's a big deal nationwide. You see mention of it every day in the national media, social channels, and in sometimes-heated conversations at the corner supermarket. Of course, it's an even hotter topic in Illinois where that state eliminated cash bail once-and-for-all under the astute leadership of Governor J.B. Pritzker back in February. But all’s not well, we thinks.
Efforts are now being made to tweak the legislation, if not wholesale then in incremental ways that won’t garner as much attention. But the change in Illinois is something folks in the jail bond profession in Jefferson County should be paying attention to. The bill doesn’t just kick cash bail to the metaphorical curb. There’s other insidious intent buried within it. Here’s a quick summary of its machinations outside the realm of cash bail. The bill:
But maybe the water’s cloudy. According to one Illinois judge, the state has 102 counties and it’s difficult to give birth to a single, “uniform operational structure” for pretrial services.
Anyone who works for a bonding company in Arapahoe County knows what happened in California last year. In November, 2020, voters soundly rejected Proposition 25, which would've replaced that state's cash bail system with … something else. Since that time, left-leaning legislators, activists, and cash bail opponents have pushed their heads together, hoping combined brainpower would allow them to obfuscate future legislation and fool voters into doing their bidding.
If there’s any state in the country where cash bail opponents will likely get their wish – even far into the future – it’s probably California. And no, before you get offended, we’re not implying that people let out on cash bail are hard-core criminals. We’re just reporting on crime rates, as other organizations have done before us. The dominoes may fall, but until then, let’s take a look at some of the stories about recent crime far to the west.
According to USA Today, California ranked #14 last year in terms of total crime:
“There were 176,982 cases of rape, robbery, murder, and aggravated assault committed in California in 2018, more violent crimes than in any other state. Of course, California is also the most populous state, but violent crime is still disproportionately high. The state is home to about 12% of the U.S. population but is also the site of about 14% of all violent crimes.”
This represents a leap of more than 30 percent from the year before. There are a lot of well-written pieces of journalism about what's happened in California and – again – it's not all cash-bail-related. But it makes you think, what if?
Things aren’t much better in New York, either. Now that the freak show known as the Cuomo administration has left the building, perhaps legislators, activists, and average voters can pool their mental resources and come up with better common-sense laws for cash bail reform and pretrial initiatives.
New York sits in the middle of crime reports publicized by the likes of USA Today and other news outlets. It has the 10th most murders and the 17th highest poverty rate. The biggest takeaway for a voters and bail bond agent in Denver County or Golden is this: More defendants are eligible for parole in New York than ever before.
As news outlets like Politico have pointed out, the change has resulted in pushback statewide with legislators desperately trying to minimize political damage. Besides, there’s enough bad news coming out of Rikers Island these days that even the best and brightest don’t have easy solutions on tap.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has called New York a "mess" and offered good luck wishes to whoever wins the New York City mayoral election. "The former top cop lamented that ‘disorderly behavior’ in the five boroughs is not punished harshly enough and made the case for a return to tough-on-crime policies like the ‘broken windows’-style policing he’s championed for decades.”
What all this means is politicos everywhere need to watch what they wish for. Do you we need criminal justice reform in America? Absolutely. Do we need to incentivize people, so they don’t have to resort to crime to support their families? Definitely. But buckshot anti-cash bail bills sprayed across the country probably isn’t the way to do it. Arapahoe County lawmakers need to think all this through very carefully.