Just two weeks after its official rollout, the early reviews for New York state’s bail-reform initiative are in, and they rival those of the movie “Cats,” which the Washington Post recently dubbed “The biggest disaster of the decade.”
It turns out the public isn’t particularly crazy about criminal defendants accused of serious offenses waltzing out of courthouses before their alleged victims are discharged from the hospital (that is, if they’re alive).
In almost every exchange I’ve had about New York’s turn away from cash bail, supporters of the reform offer two arguments: First, they point to the unfairness of a system that would — on the one hand — allow a dangerous-but-wealthy defendant to essentially buy his pretrial release, but — on the other — incarcerate a poor-but-harmless defendant who just didn’t have the scratch for bail. Second, they’ll point to New Jersey, which recently enacted its own bail reform without blood raining down from the heavens.
The first point is easily answered: Simply empower judges to order high-risk defendants (poor and rich, alike) held pretrial. This is something New Jersey made sure to do before it all but eliminated cash bail.
Photo by LightFieldStudios/iStock