Archive for the ‘Pre-Trial Release’ Category

Die Bill, Die!

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Die Bill, Die! No silly, I’m not proposing to murder someone named William. I’m referring to California Senate Bill 10, affectionately known as SB10, which is attempting to eliminate bail and bondsman as an industry throughout the state.

Last we checked it was sent to Appropriations for further study. As of September 6, 2017, several amendments to the original bill were added and it was sent back to Appropriations. Sheesh, can’t they just let this thing die?

We’ve talked about this in past blog posts here. You only have to look at New Jersey’s current state of affairs regarding repeat criminal offenders to see the results of eliminating bail.
A New Jersey Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak wrote an impassion letter to the members of the California assembly public safety Committee before their hearing on July 11, 2017 on SB10. It was sent to every member, describing the failure of the elimination of bail in his state. Senator Robert Hertzberg, one of the authors of SB10 advised the members of the committee to ignore the letter and that New Jersey was actually saving money under the bail elimination process (talk about fake news!).

New Jersey Judge Glenn Grant was quoted as saying “[the new system]does not eliminate the risk that
defendants will fail to appear in court or commit new crimes while out on release.

One of the supposed reasons for the bill is that bail bonds as they exist in their current form are discriminatory toward minorities. Let’s listen to the words of Rev. Jesse Lee Petersen, an African American who testified in front of the Assembly Public Safety Commission regarding the consequences of passing SB10:

“In the Assembly Public Safety Committee, the authors of Senate Bill 10 – State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) – spoke about the need to eliminate a paid bail system. While I couldn’t believe what was coming out of their mouths, I was even more disturbed by what wasn’t said.
In the “People’s House,” Hertzberg and Bonta described the arrested, charged, bailed and those sitting in jail as the victims of our society, and the rest of us law-abiding citizens as the oppressors. In their version of the world, the authors infer that the police, prosecutors and judges are intentionally limiting the freedoms of our poor minority communities. Given this faulty premise, they hold up SB 10 as some sort of heaven-sent solution, which in reality will automatically release the vast majority of those arrested for crimes back into our communities.
In “my house” we don’t have gated communities. Our windows have bars on them – not for decoration, but protection. In “my house,” crime is rampant. It is a place where people are afraid to report crimes, even when they know the perpetrator, because of the reprisal from the local gangs. In “my house,” it is a struggle just to survive.
In “my house” there are over 450 active gangs, with a combined membership of 45,000 individuals. In “my house” there are 900 rapes, 40,000 thefts, 8,200 burglaries, and 140 yearly homicide cases. “
Rev. Petersen lives in Los Angeles, but the numbers ( more about skewed/inflated numbers in a bit) are the same for many counties and cities throughout California: since the passage of Prop. 47, crime is on the rise. ” (something else we’ve talked about here) As he further points out:
“It was very clear to me that the chair and members of the committee have lost touch with the gritty reality of our communities. You can’t just read a book, article, or statistics and understand what is happening on the streets of our black and Hispanic neighborhoods. You need to live it and be around it to know the struggles are real.
Missing from Hertzberg and Bonta’s speeches were the voices of the rape victims, the burglarized, the bullied and the intimidated. They ignore the concerns of the good and decent Hispanics and black folk trying to stay safe in high-crime neighborhoods. The people being released from jail won’t be going back into Hertzberg and Bonta’s neighborhoods, they will be returning to “my house.”

SB 10 was approved by the committee, because in the “People’s House,” our jails are filled with poor people who are only victims. Yet in “my house,” the communities are filled with people who commit crimes, who then get out of incarceration and then threaten the already frayed fabric of our inner cities.

SB 10 may make our detached legislators feel good. But rather than addressing true racial inequalities, including the disproportionate criminal victimization of innocent people, this misguided and simplistic measure only perpetuates hopelessness and the deterioration of minority neighborhoods in urban California.”

A study was conducted In 2012 by the ACLU for L.A County’s jail system. (The numbers in 2017 are vastly different). The study showed 87% of the Pre-Trial Arrestees in custody were due to “non-financial holds.” Only 13% are in custody because they cannot afford their bail. L.A. County Sheriff’s Custody Report released in 2016 shows less than 5% are in jail for misdemeanor low level crimes and remain in custody possibly due to inability to purchase a bail bond. As we’ve stated here on our website and in previous blog posts, Orange County Bail Bonds is always willing to work with our clients to offer the best rates available and financing if necessary where appropriate.

New Jersey’s new system determines risk assessment by a computer driven algorithm (wow, really?) which has allowed those committing serious felonies to be released into the community to commit new crimes with no guarantee that they will even show up for their court appearances.

Below is a list of names and phone numbers of committee members. If your public safety is a concern for yourself and your families, we encourage you to call and make your concerns known. They may not want to acknowledge it, but they are your public servants, elected to represent your best interests.
ASSEMBLY APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (Chair) (916) 319-2080
Frank Bigelow (916) 319-2005
Richard Bloom (916) 319-2050
Raul Bocanegra (916) 319-2039
Rob Bonta (916) 319-2018
William P. Brough (916) 319-2073
Ian C. Calderon (916) 319-2057
Ed Chau (916) 319-2049
Susan Talamantes Eggman (916) 319-2013
Vince Fong (916) 319-2034
Laura Friedman (916) 319-2043
James Gallagher (916) 319-2003
Eduardo Garcia (916) 319-2056
Adam C. Gray (916) 319-2021
Al Muratsuchi (916) 319-2066
Jay Obernolte (916) 319-2033
Eloise Gomez Reyes (916) 319-2047

Is it a crime to be poor? (We don’t think so)

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Is it a crime to be poor?   by Scott Miner

Lightnin’ Hopkins, the most heavily recorded blues musician once wrote a song entitled “It’s a sin to be rich, it’s a low-down shame to be poor”.

The United States Justice Department recently issued a ruling stating that holding defendants in jail is unconstitutional based on the fact that they can’t afford to make bail. The court filing said that it is a violation of the US Constitution Fourteenth Amendment. This is the first time the government has taken a position like this before a federal appeals court.

It’s the latest step by the current presidential administration in encouraging state courts to distance themselves from the process of mandating fixed cash bail amounts with the result of jailing those who are unable to pay.

The Department stated in a friend of the court brief that bail bond customs that end up jailing persons unable to pay for pretrial release is where the violation of the Fourteenth Amendment comes from, citing the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection

The filing came in the case of Maurice Walker of Calhoun, Georgia. He was kept in jail for six nights after police arrested him for the misdemeanor offense of being a pedestrian under the influence. He was told he could not get out of jail unless he paid the fixed bail amount of $160.

The Department’s civil rights attorneys stated that courts need to consider a person’s indigence and search for other ways of guaranteeing an attendance for a court date. They felt that set bail schedules that permit the pretrial release of only those who can afford to pay, without taking into consideration an individual’s ability to pay unlawfully discriminates against destitute members of society.

Many civil rights advocates have accused local judges of operating modern-day debtor’s prisons (which were banned under Federal law in 1833. The Fourteenth Amendment affirmed the unconstitutionality of the practice in 1983). There are examples of these types of abuses alive and well in today’s society, due to the rise of private probation companies, like Judicial Correction Services.

A woman in Illinois was arrested and taken to jail because she owed a debt related to an unpaid medical bill. Unbeknownst to her, a collection agency had filled a lawsuit against her, and never having received the appearance notice, missed her court date.

Another woman in Alabama spent seven weeks in her local county jail without ever appearing in court. Her crime was a failure to pay the monthly fees mailed to her by the aforementioned Judicial Correction Services.

Until recently, the effort to help the indigent in the question of excessive bail and sentences was led by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Human Rights Watch. They’ve sued courts around the country in an effort to force reforms. But the recent filing from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has put chief justices and court administrators on notice that the Feds are joining the fight. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has made a priority of fighting what she calls “the criminalization of poverty”.

A statement from the ACLU’s racial justice program said “The DOJ is sending a strong message that judges should voluntarily comply and examine closely their policies before they get in trouble.”

It’s a rare move on the Court’s part, because it tries to change policies in courts it does not control. The efforts began with the Civil Rights Division’s looking into Ferguson, Missouri, lately a powder keg of racially related events. Investigators found a court system that emphasized revenue over justice, forcing people into debt (and jail), with blacks bearing a disproportionate burden. The filing reminds judges that it’s illegal to jail people because they cannot pay a fine, a protection safeguarded by Supreme Court decisions.

Back to the case of Maurice Walker: a federal judge in January ruled in Walker’s favor, ordering the city to allow those arrested on misdemeanor offenses be released on their own recognizance (aka “o.r.”) and to make other changes in its post-arrest procedures.

Appealing that order, the city said the preset amounts of the city’s bail schedule are tied to the seriousness of each offense and are specifically allowed under Georgia law.

“A system of unsecured recognizance bonds,” the city said in its appeal,” greatly reduces the incentive for defendants to appear.”

The city is supported by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association and by a group representing the nation’s bail bondsmen. They argue that the Constitution does not guarantee bail, it only bans excessive bail.

“It thus simply cannot be that any defendant arrested for any crime must be immediately released based on a bare assertion of indigence,” the group said in its court filing.

Barry J. Pollack, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers, said Friday said he applauded the Justice Department’s for making “critically important arguments.”

A spokesman for the defense lawyers group said it believes “pretrial liberty must be the norm and detention prior to trial the carefully limited exception.

An argument can be made for pretrial set bail schedules in that bail is not just for the accused as much as it is for victims, society and the interest of justice. Yes, mistakes can happen, but the catalyst for an arrest is usually probable cause, so therefore, at face value, defensible.

An accused person has a right to a reasonable bail (the key word here is reasonable, the preceding argument being against excessive or unaffordable bail). Society has the right to know that an accused person will show up for trial. History has shown that the most effective way to insure that someone shows up for a court appearance is a fully guaranteed bail bond written by a licensed bail bondsman. An unsecured release, as proposed by the Court’s filing is unenforceable. With absolutely nothing to lose, why would any accused person show up for a court appearance? Only commercial bail bonds guarantee an appearance in court or payment of the full bail amount if an offender fails to appear.

Here at Orange County Bail Bonds, we of course believe in the effectiveness of bail, but have always been willing to work with all our clients in tailoring bail bonds payment options to accommodate any and all economic situations. (see our YouTube video on financing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcXTLB2iqSM  as well as the blog post here from June 14th regarding financing)

Orange County California Jails Turning into Mental Hospitals as the Number of Mentally Ill Inmates Increases

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

A Bureau of Justice Statistics special report estimates that more than half of all prisoners and jail inmates have or had some form of undiagnosed or diagnosed mental health problem. This is compounded by rampant substance abuse issues already facing many of these inmates.

California prisons and jails have become homes for people with mental illness who pose a threat to the facility, jail staffers, and other prisoners whom are ill-equipped to deal with these issues. California’s major prisons are at risk of facing a lawsuit if they deny offenders with mental illness proper treatment while incarcerated. California is currently trying to deal with more than 33,000 mentally ill inmates with mental hospitals in the state serving just 6,000 patients.

California’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners has been the subject of a number of lawsuits and class action litigation. A federal judge ruled in April of 2014 that the state of California violated inmates’ rights with mental health issues by subjecting them to excessive punishment.  Like many other states, the budget for treatment of the mentally ill inmates has been reduced in California prisons and jails, and with the limited resources, the corrections system is unable to provide adequate mental-health treatment for inmates.

This is how the system works; criminal offenders who have mental illness are arrested and sent to jail. If the offenders are shown to have signs of mental illness, they are referred to a psychiatric clinic where they are tested to determine their level of competency. Those who are found incompetent or with a mental condition are sent to the mental health court where the judge determines if the person is competent to stand trial. If the person can’t stand trial, he/she is taken to a mental health facility.

This process where you wait for someone to be transferred to a mental health facility can take several weeks, the offender still doesn’t receive any form of treatment, and the condition worsens. Something has to be done in order to ensure that the psychiatric evaluations are done fast so that we don’t have so many people with mental illness waiting to be moved out of jail.

It is unfortunate that prison officials are now being forced to take care of mentally ill convicts, even though they are not specifically trained to offer this kind of care and did not sign up for it. There have been reports showing that mentally ill inmates are undergoing unusual and cruel punishment in Orange County jails. This kind of treatment has been seen to cause severe psychosis and even suicide.

To address some of these issues, jails throughout California are liaising with volunteers and community base service providers to provide a number of beneficial programs to the mentally ill inmates. But a lot more can still be done. Jails can recruit additional mental health staff who are trained on how to safely assess, house, treat, and work with inmates who are mentally ill. The mental health staff also need to be trained to work in a custody environment.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Orange County provides information for the family when a mentally ill person is arrested:

  • If your relative is already at the Orange County Sheriff Department Central Jail Complex, he/she can expect to be interviewed by the Mental Health Evaluation Team. If the Medical Evaluation Team determines that there are mental health issues, your relative will be referred to Correctional Mental Health.
  • It is OK for your mentally ill family member to discuss his/her physical and mental condition, diagnosis, medications, etc. with Medical Evaluation Team members.
  • It is important that he/she feels safe and to speak openly with mental health screeners.

Family members often know what is best for their loved ones that have been arrested.  Getting them out on bail where they can receive the proper care and treatment of mental health professionals is often the best course of action.

GPS Monitoring: A Promising Solution that Doesn’t Deliver

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

With the advent of the GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, many people believe that they can use it to help keep track of criminals who are released before trial instead of keeping them locked up in jail. They think this is a solution to the overcrowding the jails. Many officials are on a constant search for alternatives to house pre-trial inmates. Instead of locking them up in jails, GPS tracking devices are used to monitor the location of defendants who are released prior to their court appearances and ordered by a Judge not to leave a prescribed geographic area.

The initial promise of “big brother” tracking citizens by using GPS seemed like a good plan, in the hope that it would reduce the cost that counties have to incur to house criminals and at the same time reducing over-crowding in jails.  The problem is: they just don’t work! There are myriad shortcomings in the system that prevents it from being a good solution for pre-trial release programs.

GPS devices have become so advanced that they can be used to track someone almost to their exact position. But all this means little when you don’t have enough people to monitor inmates that are wearing the GPS device. There have been numerous reports that show that inmates wearing GPS devices left their designated location or entered an area where they are not permitted to go. It is vital for the monitoring of inmates to be consistent in order to overcome such violations.

And tracking devices do not prevent crimes! Even though, if you track an inmate with GPS, it still doesn’t tell the monitoring person about what the inmate is doing. If they enter a store, you still cannot say with certainty whether the inmate is shopping or committing a robbery. Thus, crime cannot be prevented using GPS technology.

One of the main reasons why GPS has failed to be used as an effective means for releasing inmates before trial is that a determined person can easily remove a GPS device, giving the monitoring company absolutely no information except that where the inmate was before he took the device off. In Southern California, alone, there are many airports, bus terminals and train stations within minutes from anywhere. Once the device has been removed, these felons could be miles from where they removed the device long before the authorities have any idea that they have left the jurisdiction. These inmates can be on a run for months before they are caught again, usually much later after they have committed one or more new crimes.

Thus, there are too many things that can go wrong with GPS tracking to rely on it as an effective pre-release solution. Many changes would have to be made to the system so that it can be used more efficiently. Commercial Bail Bonds are still the best and most successful means of pre-trial release.