Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization recently announced a bold initiative to fund the bail for eligible women and 16 and 17-year-olds currently incarcerated in New York City.
This bold initiative is facing consternation from people including law enforcement as well as some elected officials.
What is my opinion? Well, let's discuss.
One cannot begin to discuss an initiative related to law enforcement without considering race because historically, most policies and procedures related to law enforcement have had an adverse effect on people of color.
As a former member of the law enforcement community who is aware of the systemic, subconscious and at times unintended consequences of policies and their unpropitious impact, I applaud this initiative.
Although this Mass Bail Out Action may not be perfect, it brings much-needed attention to the highly flawed bail system that primarily impacts minorities that will ultimately benefit from this effort.
Is this to suggest that we want criminals free on our streets? To that I unequivocally say no. Let me say it differently, absolutely not!
The purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant returns to court for trial; it was never designed to be a form of punishment. If the judge has adequately assessed the ramifications of a defendant’s release and decided to set bail, then the said defendant has every right to have his or hers posted.
Most would agree that not everyone should be eligible, but the fact of the matter is, if granted, as long as it’s a legal source, should not be a factor. A defendant who may intimidate witnesses or become a threat to society if released should not be eligible for bail.
It is essential not to conflate the two issues.
To think otherwise is reminiscent of a former street con game in New York City called Three Card Monte: Now you see the card, now you don't. Granting bail to certain individuals with the knowledge they will be unable to post it is clean cut hypocrisy.
In the criminal justice system, the fairness of the system should never be determined by a defendant’s W-2. As stated by US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black “There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.”
The state of California is in the process of overhauling its bail system. Governor Brown has stated California will reform its system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly.
I am a proponent of tough law. If you commit the crime, then the time is yours. What is on the table here is not about freeing criminals. It is about fairness regardless of your skin color or financial status.
Once again we should not an individual eligible for bail with someone who is not. These are two separate issues.
As the criminal justice system evolves and attempts to correct outdated policies that are unfair, primarily to black and brown people such as marijuana enforcement, one should hope that it doesn't take long to bring attention to and make the necessary changes to the current bail system.