Bail reform mercenaries have been crisscrossing the country in the past few years trying desperately to sell their snake oil to short-sighted politicians. No surprise that they’ve found plenty of them in places like New York and California. In West Virginia however, where common sense is still held in high regard, legislators recently rejected the fundamentally flawed notion that releasing more criminals onto the streets makes for a fair, safe society.
HB 2190 was pushed by a large number of out of state lobbyists as well as by the ACLU and sought to remove from WV judges the ability to determine whether or not a defendant should be held or released, with or without bail. The legislation would have left that decision entirely in the hands of a computer program (produced in secret by a private organization by the way) and eliminated entirely the bail bonding option. All allegedly in the name of "fairness."
One of the favorite buzzwords anti-bail lobbyists and their legislative allies like to toss around is "fairness." Eliminating bail, they say, will restore "fairness" to the criminal justice system. Fairness is certainly one of the principles that should be front and center when it comes to criminal justice. But does eliminating bail actually make the system more fair? West Virginia legislators understood all too well that it doesn’t. Not even close.
The great myth of bail bonds reform is that it has to be an either/or proposition. That the only way to fix what ails the bail system (and nobody is saying it’s perfect) is to eliminate it entirely. This is a dangerous fiction with potentially devastating consequences. The fact is that it doesn’t take much to fix the current system and restore justice and fairness for all involved.
The Bronx Freedom Fund (BFF) is a perfect example of how a little bit of outside the box thinking can restore real fairness and safeguard the rights of victims, while at the same time-saving taxpayers millions. The BFF is a non-profit charitable organization that provides bail for those too poor to afford it themselves. In the several years since its introduction, it has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the bail system as is can be made to work for everyone.
98% of BFF clients make all their court appearances, restoring faith in the system for both the accused and the victims. Fewer defendants feel compelled to plead guilty to win their release and no one who has received assistance from the BFF has wound up back in jail. On top of that, the BFF hasn't lost any money since the bail money they post is returned to them when their client's court proceedings are concluded.
So you see, real bail reform is simpler than the no-bail zealots would have you believe. So the next time outside lobbyists come to Jefferson County, Arapahoe County and Denver County, and try to sell you their no-bail snake oil ask them about the BFF and see how fast they run.