The Bail Reform Effort: Reality Need Not Apply

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Hand crossing out 'MYTHS' on chalkboard with 'FACTS' written just above

The quest to undermine the bail bonds system that has worked effectively for a nearly a thousand years has been a multi-pronged effort. If you put this effort under a microscope however, you discover it has three essential components:

  1. The non-profits that need to manufacture issues to champion.
  2. The lobbyists who are paid by the non-profits to strong-arm legislators.
  3. And then there are the minions of the media who know that “controversy = clicks”.

It’s this last component we’d like to look at here. Because the media are the foot soldiers of the movement, attempting to “shape the narrative” in a way that attracts the most readers and viewers. In the process they distort, omit and manufacture relative truths designed to drive traffic. Let’s look at some of the myths the media spreads about bail and bail reform:

Myth 1: Bail is Unfair

This is a central part of anti-bail propaganda. To make their point, anti-bail advocates circulate stories like this one from California:

“A senior citizen from San Francisco had his bail set at $350,000 for allegedly stealing a bottle of cologne and $5 from his neighbor. He remained in jail for more than 250 days before being convicted because he could not afford his bail.”

This is a snippet from an actual story circulated by a number of media outlets. It is intended to show how cruel and unfair the bail system is. The full story, however, turned out to be quite different.

The “senior citizen” who was allegedly being victimized by an unfair bail system was actually a 64-year-old retired shipyard worker with a lengthy criminal record dating back to the 1990s and beyond. And he did more than steal a bottle of cologne and $5. He stalked his victim - a 79 year old man - followed him into his house and physically threatened him with suffocation if the man did not give him money.

And why was this “innocent” senior citizen on a handsome pension so desperately in need of cash that he was prepared to kill to get some? Because he’s spent all his own cash feeding his insatiable drug addiction. Which is also why he couldn’t afford to post a bond.

When you understand how the media is twisting the truth to fit the narrative they’re trying to create you begin to realize just how fragile the anti-bail house of cards really is. Let’s look at another media myth regarding bail.

Myth 2: Prosecutors Oppose the Current Bail Bonds System

This one is almost as outrageous as the first myth and it’s something you hear repeated over and over. Is it true? Well, here’s a brief snippet from another story that recently made the media rounds that certainly implies it’s true:

“In a recent letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, more than a dozen prosecutors from around the country urged the state to end cash bail”.

That sounds pretty impressive alright. More than 12 prosecutors huh? Wow. But here’s the thing: there are more than 2,300 prosecutors in the United States. And many thousands more assistant prosecutors. That this letter could only garner a dozen or so supporters among all the thousands and thousands of prosecutors at work nationwide is a testament to how little support there is within law enforcement for bail reform. But you’d never know that reading most media coverage of the bail reform issue.

Myth 3: Bail Reform Will Save States Money

This one’s a doozy and so easily debunked that it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with this: In the current bail system when a person is released on bond the bondsman becomes responsible for ensuring that person shows up in court to face the charges against them. If they skip bail, the bonding agent - not the state - is tasked with tracking the fugitive down and returning them to custody at their own expense. It doesn’t cost the state a penny.

If you eliminate the bail bonding agent, the state becomes responsible for tracking down fugitives and returning them to custody. And who pays for that pursuit and recapture? Taxpayers like you, that’s who. In addition, all the thousands of people who are released without bail need to be monitored. And who’s paying to set up and run the system to do that? If you said “I am,” congratulations! You’re right.

If you think that’s just alarmist or misleading journalism, think again. In 2017 New Jersey did away with cash bail in a move hailed by most media outlets. This year however, representatives of the New Jersey judiciary are at the state house begging for help. If the state doesn’t raise taxes to pay for all the expenses created by the no-bail system, they say, the judiciary will go bankrupt in 2020.

The media in New Jersey simply ignores this inconvenient truth and instead continues to hail bail reform as an unqualified success.

The Bottom Line

We could continue to debunk media myths about bail bonding and bail reform for days. But the fact is taxpayers in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, Denver County and throughout Colorado are being sold a bill of goods when it comes to bail reform. The only ones who stand to gain from the demise of the bail system are the non-profits who sponsor this type of anti-social movement, their lobbyists and of, course the media who care about little except being “controversial” so they can generate clicks. Save your state. Say no to bail reform.

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