Sunday, January 17, 2016

Whitmire: Sandra Bland death demonstrates need for bail reform

Quorum Report has a story up titled, "Bail bond reform may be a lasting legacy of Sandra Bland's death," in which Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire predicted the 85th Texas Legislature will zero in on an unfair bail system and needless pretrial detention. Reported QR:
Many put blame for Bland’s death on her inability to quickly find the $500 for her bond, extending her stay in the county jail into the following week, when she took her life. What Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, sees is a woman charged with a traffic stop who should have been in and out of the county jail within 18 hours of being booked.

“She was offered a bond. She needed $500 to get out,” Whitmire told an audience at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference last week. “When she saw the magistrate, she was not able to come up with the $500. They could verify she had a new job at Prairie View A&M. They could verify she had a local address. It would have served them well to offer her a PR bond and let her go on with her life, and then all of our lives would have been different.”

A “PR” bond is a personal recognizance bond, one that bypasses bail and relies on a defendant’s signature as a promise to return to face charges on a court date. It is usually offered to low-level non-violent offenders who do not pose a flight risk.

In the case of Harris County, 60 percent of those in jail fall into that category, yet magistrates offer a fraction of defendants PR bonds as an option, Whitmire said. Such a decision can often be heartless for people who are living from paycheck to paycheck. The cost of bail ends up outweighing the price of the crime.

“Some people couldn’t raise $1,000 to save their lives,” Whitmire said of bail bonds. “We need to get them in and get them out and save the resources for the really bad people. I think that really should be our priority.”

More than half the people sitting in the Harris County Jail today are awaiting a trial, rather than completing a sentence, Whitmire said. The system would be better served if they were released in order to get back to work to pay court fines.
This is welcome news. Chairman Whitmire knows how to pass his bills and is one of the strongest champions this issue could hope for in the legislature's upper chamber. His support won't guarantee bail reform will pass, but it cannot happen without him.



Anonymous said...

I hope Whitmire does something to force judges to grant PR bonds. Maybe mandating that first offenders accused of non violent offenses be automatically released on PR bonds would do it. I'm so tired of seeing people's lives destroyed because they can't make bond.

Anonymous said...

If you want real reform, follow the money in Harris County. There is an unholy alliance between the Judges, namely their reelection campaigns, and the bonding companies. Rarely is a bondsman on the hook for a bond when the person out on bail skips out. When they are unable to contact the person, they got to the court and get themselves removed from the bond. By the time the warrant is issued, the bonding company has nothing to do with the case, there is a no bond issued by the judge, and the county gets nothing.

The Old Skool Preacher said...

This what I would like to see happen: if the offender has a local address and the nature and offense did not exclude, GPS technology can confind that person to that address with maximum protection to the bonding company and society.

DEWEY said...

Please correct me if I am wrong, but aren't most of the people that get PR bonds are the ones that can afford to pay a bond ?

Anonymous said...

While PR bonds should be given more often, this particular case is not an example of it. Regardless of what you may think of the officer, all the Judge has to go on during a bail hearing is the written word of the officer. In Sandra Bland's case, she was charged with assault on a public servant. That is in no way a "non-violent" crime.

PirateFriedman said...

Anonymous - we need to give PR bonds for some violent offenses as well.

TexasTuff said...

I think it started before she could come up with bond. The officer that arrested her was out of line when he asked her to put her cigarette out. It was an idiotic request on his part that started the whole thing!

Anonymous said...

TT, bad cop could have simply not wanted to smell the nasty shit while conducting a traffic stop, therefore, his request did not start anything.

I wish you would have actually watched the entire clip, if you had, you would have stated the unbiased obvious. When he asked her to exit the vehicle and she failed to immediately do so without any resistance, his power trip started the whole thing. Your mis-statement leads me to asking - Why in the hell is the fact that he purposely directed her over to a sidewalk out of dash-cam view being ignored?

They are trained to do this and this and this in the 3 hour courses: Out of View 101 Aim Away 101, Stop Resisting 101 & How to Create Falsified Police Incident Reports 101, where they learn to pull up on scenes and aim the front of vehicles away from the action. And it's been in practice since the very first month of cameras inception.

Solution - 360 Panoramic Lenses for all vehicles, Forward & Rear Facing Lapel Cams, Mandatory 1 year and one day in jail for any public servant filing falsified information and required to apply with the police academy based on criminal behavior while in uniform. Strip away the immunity crap & watch them straiten up,or go away vs a paid vacation.

Gunny Thompson said...

In response to Anonymous 10:20 post in allegations that judges benefit from the bail bonding system: By law, as their position implies, judges are adjudiators, not Legislators. It is a legislative function to pass laws. As members of the judiciary, Judges determine the constitutionally of matters before the Court. By ruling on matters that they participated in forming mandate that they recuse themselves. Their action are held to be in violation of the Constitutional provisions of Separation of Power, and are therefore void. See: American Cyanamid Co. v. FTC 363 F2d 757 (6th Cir. 1966) In short, no man may be a judge in his own cause Additionally, it is unclear as to whether Ms. Bland was assisted by counsel prior o her magistrate appearance. If not, the Court were in violation of her rights under the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

I concur that a great many more should qualify for PR bonds but John Whitmire knows full well that Bland would not have been eligible under various proposed rules given her extensive history of brushes with the law, her failing to appear numerous times previously, and how she still owed almost $8000 for previous offenses. I understand his need to capitalize on the case and understand all the issues brought up regarding the circumstances of the matter but she was not a good example for bond reform.