First, I would like to disclose why I oppose HB 1567. No, I have nothing to sell you; my warning is based upon the results of the 3 most recent cities to remove cash bail from their systems, and how each jurisdiction immediately experienced double digit increases in violent and non-violent crime thereafter. The facts are troubling, but yes, three datasets show the DIRECT correlation between banning cash bail on misdemeanors and increased crime. I’ll also explain in a follow up issue, why the legislation doesn’t even properly address the overcrowding issue it claims to solve.
But let’s keep it light, since I want the purpose of this essay to be understood from the frame of humility and concession. I’ve always admired how strong criminal defense attorneys know they will be overruled, yet still make a “record objection” to something in court they feel is wrong. I again saw a variation of this just last night, when I watched episode 7 of "Man in the Arena." Tom Brady knows he didn't engineer an elaborate scheme to lower the PSI of footballs he'd use in cold weather games, yet after months of acrimony, he surrendered, and accepted a 4 game suspension for "deflategate." So I too will accept however HB 1567 plays out. But before getting overruled, I'll stand up and state my objection, "for the record."
The flaws in HB 1567 are obvious to the trained eye, but far too often those advocating for bail reform simply lack the “hands on” experience with the bail system necessary to propose meaningful legislation. Unfortunately, even the most accomplished of academics can’t simply parachute into the bail reform conversation, since the gulf between “in theory” and “in reality” is far too great. In their defense, the second order effects of banning cash bail on misdemeanors could not have accurately been predicted with certainty. But luckily for Hawaii, New York and Houston are already years into the exact same reform structure, where cash was removed from misdemeanor charges, and today our state can learn from those jurisdictions. The video below, explains how Houston failed terribly in protecting its citizens, once bail reform measures were implemented.
Highlights of the video include:
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s report on how removing cash bail on misdemeanor charges resulted in:
INCREASES in re-offending by criminal defendants who have been released on bail
INCREASES in bond failures by criminal defendants
INCREASES in violent offenses committed by defendants free on bail
Per her report, the charts below show the drastic increases from 2015/2016 (pre-bail reform) to 2017 and beyond (post-bail reform). The YELLOW section is a mix of actual numbers followed up by projections, since the report was published in September of 2021.
Specific to the court system, there's a major unintended consequences of bail reform. When large percentages of releasees fail to make their appearances, an ever expanding case backlog is created which overwhelms the court system. As of today, the misdemeanor courts in Houston have yet to effectively manage the additional workload created by the thousands of weekly failures to appear (FTA).
Unfortunately for Hawaii, HB 1567 goes further than the Houston reforms, and would affect both the district court and circuit court, since class C felonies are included in the legislation. The Houston media market has done an admirable job in covering the pitfalls of bail reform, but New York’s media market takes the cake!
The “No-Bail Fail” as the New York Daily News called it, is undeniable:
So that jail mail readers can objectively get the facts direct from the source, I've included a link below by The Wall Street Journal, detailing the failures of bail reform in New York City.
I realize the emotional SHOCK value of such headlines, so I’d like to get back to the data which validates my opposition to HB 1567. Outside of the bail industry, very few know about New York City’s current crime wave and subsequent reinstitution of cash bail on certain misdemeanor charges. Bail reform apologists claim covid-19 altered society in such a fashion, that recent arrest statistics should not be considered valid. However I’d like to point out the intellectually dishonest nature of that argument, since the lockdowns actually decreased the opportunities for crimes to be both COMMITTED and more importantly REPORTED. But just so we can completely circumvent the “covid-19” excuse, here’s the POST REOPENING crime data in NYC. FYI- NYC reopened in the middle of 2021, so as of today, we have about a full year of post-covid 19 data to draw from. Here are the 2022 year to date increases in New York City crime, straight from the NY Post:
Lastly, there's the controversial tenure of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. The Bay Area is an extreme example of what happens when cash bail is almost completely removed from the judicial system.
I personally believe the dream best system utilizes every tool available for a release. This includes cash bail (money), commercial surety (bail bonds), and pretrial services (release with government supervision). With all options on the table, the court can craft a personalized release plan, tailor fit to the needs of the defendant. Yet the bail reform movement instead fights to ELIMINATE, instead of IMPROVE existing release options.
When bail reformers fixate on eliminating cash bail, instead of improving government sponsored bail, at best the results are controversial.
Below is a headline timeline of bail reform in San Francisco:
Whether you're in the public sector, private sector, or you've just died your hair purple and identify as "progressive," we all should be supporting positive bail reforms, which balance the interests of victims, public safety, and the rights of the accused.
A simple way to do so, would be to study and implement solutions to help those in custody find:
1) affordable housing
2) substance abuse treatment
3) mental health treatment
But instead, we've all broken up into different tribes that have assign blame upon each other. Instead of focusing on how to incentivize better behavior from the accused, some blame bail agents, or cash, or the court for today's incarceration conundrum. It's the blame game which distracts all parties from the mission at hand, which is to help the wayward defendant.
In closing, I know my HB 1567 objection will be "overruled" by the powers that be in the government. Yet still, just as the defense attorneys that CARE, stand up to protest that which they feel is wrong, I too am standing up, to memorialize this essay as my "record objection."
If you too would like to make a record objection to HB 1567, click below and sign the VETO petition.