BEHIND THE PAPER WITH BRIAN NAIRIN:
As I read another senseless article this week written by an advocate for public sector pretrial release programs, I couldn’t help but notice a pretty big contradiction in their social justice narrative. The author made the statement that jails are crowded all over the country because poor people who have not been convicted of a crime (innocent) are sitting there because they can’t afford a bail bond. In the very next sentence the author states that meanwhile dangerous offenders (guilty) are being let out of jail because they have money. In other words, if you are poor, you are an innocent victim, and if you have money, you are guilty and should be denied bail. Are you seeing the contradiction here? Poor = innocent victim. Money = guilty offender.
As many of you know, I have worked in the criminal justice system for most my life. I am under the impression that everyone who has been arrested has been so based on probable cause observed by a law enforcement officer. As part of that process, I have never been aware of any law enforcement officer checking a person’s wallet or online checking account to determine how much money they have before they make an arrest. So to say that people are being arrested because of their lack of wealth is a little farfetched in my opinion.
Also, I have said this before, the amount of money that a person sitting in jail has is irrelevant when it comes to affording a bail bond. Rarely do defendants “self-bail.” The overwhelming majority of the time people are bailed out by a third party (family, colleagues, friends, etc.). So to say that poor people are in jail because of their financial indigence is a pretty misleading and false statement to make.
Anyway, back to my original point of writing this blog. I am now pretty convinced that the public sector pretrial community doesn’t really understand how the criminal justice system is supposed to work. Because if they did, they could never make the argument that money has anything to do with right and wrong or guilt and innocence. But this is exactly what they are doing. If you are poor, you are not guilty but rather an innocent victim of the system…and if you are not poor, you are a guilty person who is able to buy their way out of jail. I am not sure where or how these folks learned about our justice system, but I learned that justice is supposed to be blind…hence the blindfold over lady justice’s eyes. I learned that regardless of wealth status that every citizen was bound by the same laws and rules and had the same chance at justice based on the facts of their case…nothing else.
Instead those that support public sector pretrial release want you to believe that justice isn’t blind, but rather is purposefully targeting and punishing the poor. They want you to believe that the only reason someone is in jail is because they were discriminated against because of wealth status. Not only is this way of thinking ridiculous and backwards, it distorts and ignores the purpose of a criminal justice system in the first place. For example, let’s look at California. They have passed some of the most criminal friendly, anti-victim focused laws in recent history with AB109 and Proposition 47. While AB109 sent thousands of convicted criminals from state prisons to local jails (thus pushing out local criminals in the jails out into the public), Proposition 47 decriminalized a long list of crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and promised safer schools and streets. Both AB109 and Proposition 47 may have been two of the most damaging legislative acts in California’s history from a public safety standpoint. In a recent release from the Public Policy Institute of California citing national FBI crime statistics, it showed that California suffered a drastic increase in crime rates in both the violent crime and property categories. In the violent crime category, California had 3 cities in the top 5 nationally, and 5 cities in the top 10. Even worse, 49 of 66 California cities in the report showed an increase in violent crime and 34 of those an increase in the double digits. In the property crime category it is even worse. California cities occupied the top five spots and five of the top ten spots for increases in property crimes nationally. Forty-eight of the 66 California cities in the report saw increases in property crimes with 24 cities seeing double digit increases. To say that these two legislative acts failed to live up to their promises would be a gross overstatement.
Our society functions in an orderly way because we have laws. The second we start to ignore those laws and treat an individual any differently than others, whether they are rich or poor, we in essence throw the entire system out of balance…and substantially decrease public safety in the process…just like California. The criminal justice system is not about financial equality and questions of public safety should not be based on emotional ideology. It is about enforcing laws and assuring public safety. Plain and simple.
*Image courtesy of bonnlaw.com