Bail Reform? It Just Causes More Crime

An obscure organization — the Arnold Foundation — has been cheerleading a series of changes to cash bail nationwide. Its supporters claim that being required to post-bail hurts the working poor and minorities disproportionately. They also argue that in most instances bail isn’t even needed.

They are wrong.

Horace Cooper

Horace Cooper

Bail isn’t useful, it is essential. Society will either warehouse every accused defendant prior to trial (at considerable taxpayer expense) or allow them to post a bond promising to show up for trial.

We can’t simply let them go after an arrest with just their promise to appear.

But that’s the Arnold Foundation’s plan. It is radical and dangerous — and embraced by progressives like Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, it is no longer just a plan. The foundation’s vision to end cash bail is spreading like wildfire across the country with nearly 20 states operating with some version of this “reform.”

And now in the very places that have put these “reforms” into effect, the veritable chickens have come home to roost. Even that well known “right winger” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has gone public with his concerns just last week. He tied the city’s skyrocketing crime rate to New York State’s new bail reform laws because he says bail reform is putting all but the most violent offenders immediately back out on the streets.

Like clockwork, residents of New York City are seeing in New York’s newspapers and in local news shows story after story about violent crimes committed by people who were released after being arrested because of bail reform.

In one case a bank robber already convicted and sentenced for three prior robberies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York was released without bail after being arrested again for a bank robbery in upstate New York.

In another case a man on the Long Island Rail Road was arrested for exposing himself to a passenger. He was released without bail and not only didn’t show up for his case, but was subsequently re-arrested for “forcible touching of intimate parts” of women while wielding a knife.

But it isn’t just happening New York City. In Harris County, Texas, a 20-year-old pregnant woman was stabbed to death by her husband less than two days after he was released from jail without bail — an arrest precipitated by a misdemeanor assault on his wife!

In Austin, Texas a man who had recently been arrested and released for burglary went on a stabbing spree at a coffee shop killing one and injuring two others.

Based out of Houston, Texas, the Arnold Foundation claims that it has developed what it calls a Public Safety Assessment tool. Purportedly, it uses a “secret” scientific method of determining which accused criminals can be released without a bond — that is they can be trusted to show up for trial solely based on their promise.

To call this sham science is to insult shams.

This so-called assessment tool doesn’t even focus on the defendant’s individual circumstances but instead relies on statistical data like their age, gender etc. to generate a risk factor to determine whether they are “likely” to re-offend or skip trial.

In the 21st century we’re actually being told that you can tell whether someone is a criminal based on their physical characteristics?

Strangely, the leftists pushing these radical measures act as if bail itself is a new concept. But it has been around since at least the 13th century. Its purpose has always been to balance the interests of the state to ensure that defendants show up for trial while obviating the requirement for the accused to be detained for the duration of the trial.

Five centuries later the founding fathers of the United States enshrined this concept in our Constitution with the 8th Amendment. Under its provisions the government can require bail but the amount must be set at a level “reasonably calculated” to ensure that the accused will appear at trial.

Today, the efforts to end bail have simply made our neighborhoods more dangerous and signaled to criminals in our midst that they wouldn’t be held accountable.

Moreover, all of this ignores the truth: Cash-based bail actually works. The progressives won’t tell you that peer-reviewed studies show that not only is bail is a very taxpayer friendly mechanism to see to it that defendants show up for trial, it also prevents them from re-offending while they wait. This progressive scheme to end bail isn’t a reform, it is a license to commit crime.


Horace Cooper is co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research and a legal commentator. This article first appeared on Newsmax.

New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.