Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Judicial Council recommendations on bail reform finally out

The Texas Judicial Council's long-awaited recommendations on bail reform and reducing pretrial detention are finally out. See their 18-page report here. AP had a recent story highlighting the Judicial Council effort in the context of Harris County's bail reform efforts. Grits contributing writer Sandra Guerra Thompson opined on those efforts in an email:
county officials have begun to implement several new strategies to streamline cases, conduct better pretrial risk assessmentsand provide counsel to people at bail hearings.  Some of these measures are funded under the county’s MacArthur grant.  These new processes will provide some relief to poor people who cannot afford to bail out.   However, people with the money to bail out will still be released a few hours after arrest, putting them in a far superior position to defend themselves against the pending charges and enabling them to keep their personal lives intact. Letting people bail out quickly—without doing a risk assessment—also allows dangerous people to get out of jail with lightning speed.  The county’s new improvements do help the poor slobs who get stuck in jail for lack of bail money, but all that these improvements really do is to ameliorate the unfairness of a broken system; they don’t fix the fundamental problems.
The Judicial Council's formal resolution recommended to the Texas Legislature that the law be changed to:
1. Require defendants arrested for jailable misdemeanors and felonies to be assessed using a validated pretrial risk assessment prior to appearance before a magistrate under Article 15.17, Code of Criminal Procedure; 
2. Amend the Texas Constitution bail provision and related bail statutes to provide for a presumption of pretrial release through personal bond, leaving discretion with judges to utilize all existing forms of bail; 
3. Amend the Texas Constitution and enact related statutes to provide that defendants posing a high flight risk and/or high risk to community safety may be held in jail without bail pending trial after certain findings are made by a magistrate and a detention hearing is held; 
4. Provide funding to ensure that pretrial supervision is available to defendants released on a pretrial release bond so that those defendants are adequately supervised; 
5. Provide funding to ensure that magistrates making pretrial release decisions are adequately trained on evidence-based pretrial decision-making and appropriate supervision levels; 
6. Ensure that data on pretrial release decisions is collected and maintained for further review; 
7. Expressly authorize the Court of Criminal Appeals to adopt any necessary rules to implement the provisions enacted by the Legislature pursuant to these recommendations; and 
8. Provide for a sufficient transition period to implement the provisions of these recommendations.
The report mentioned above elaborates on each recommendation. See also a summary of the recommendations offered to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in September.

Predictably, the bail industry is already gearing up to fight the effort tooth and nail.

Grits will definitely have more to say on this later. And perhaps contributing writers Sandy Thompson or Becky Bernhardt, both of whom have tracked these processes closely, will find time to parse the good, the dubious, and the inadequate from what's been proposed.


Anonymous said...

Professor Guerra Thompson's reference to the indigent accused as "poor slobs" is emblematic of the problem. They're not "slobs" - they are people. Not sure whose side she is on - but she shouldn't be involved with any of this with that attitude.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@7:48, I wonder if the indigent would rather someone change the rules to help them or refer to them in politically correct terms? She's been focused for many years on the former. I further wonder, has your focus on the latter ever tangibly improved anyone's lives, or does it just make you feel better about yourself?

It's not really up to you to say who should or "shouldn't be involved with any of this."

Anonymous said...

Come on, Grits! Don't be hating on your fellow progressives! You should know in today's politically correct society words matter more than deeds! Calling someone a "poor slob" could easily be disseminated onto a college campus and into a "safe zone,"-- and just imagine the TRAUMA!! It might even be a "dog whistle!" I don't care what the good professor's accomplishments are. She is desperately in need of some SENSTIVITY TRAINING!!! P.S., you're sounding a little bit intolerant yourself! LOL!!

Jorge Renaud said...

I find the above exchange saddening beyond belief, mostly because I know Grits, not because of the predictable sneer displayed by 'ol Anonymous. Scott's response falls into the either/or fallacy, as if working to change the rules in a given area conveys upon the rule-changer some mantle of ethical superiority and renders ok dehumanizing language, because if the rule-changer adopted respectful language that would mean she could not be effective. The fact is that individuals in white coats who make academic arguments for or against a given policy, or individuals in organizations who work to change policy, or government officials who actually implement that policy - far too many of them are never those AFFECTED by that policy. And when those who ARE affected by that policy raise objections to their portrayal, they are dismissed as overly sensitive or irrelevant. Any objectification - of those in jail as "poor slobs," of women as "dumb bimbos," or of anonymous commentators as "cowardly rednecks," is dehumanizing. And if that objectification is rendered without thought, just as part of one's regular speech and thought patterns - as Professor Guerra did - it signifies a much deeper contempt, and I would have expected a better response from Scott.

Jorge Renaud said...

And one last thing. As someone who has been labeled quite a few things in my life, and who insists on using language that empowers, I can say for a certainty that using respectful language toward someone who has been bombarded with demeaning, insulting, dehumanizing terms has, in fact, made a tangible difference. That is especially true in the lives of youth of color, many of whom are delegitimized every day. With all due respect, my friend, the question is not if a given term is or is not "politically correct," but if those living under the mantle of privilege - of race, wealth, education, or sex - can understand how much damage language can do, and how much tangible good it can in fact bring about.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the ol' "mantle of privilege." Boy there's a term that's wielded these days like a Bowie knife. No longer is success respected and recognized based upon effort or work ethic. Instead, the only reason that some are successful and others not is based entirely upon some unfair status the person possesses--and the list (race, wealth, education, sex, hair color, foot size, etc.) seems to just go on and on. It's not enough that everyone gets to start from a level playing field in this wonderful country (see for example so many immigrants from foreign continents who have given up everything to come here and have made it), it's never about individual drive and effort is it? Someone always had an advantage. What a pathetic and self-centered way to live your life.

Mark M. said...

That you fail to recognize that your cited exceptions illustrate the rule is an indicator of your character. You probably feel that you are a fine, upstanding, pious, stalwart of the community. "Those people" just need to get out there and try harder, dontcha think?

FarmerChet said...

RE: reducing pretrial detention

I am still floored that this is mentioned more as a side-item than a major problem.
Austin has lost their mind with pretrial detention, especially with DUI arrests.

What I see is the assumption of guilt, complete with fines and classes for anyone dragged in by APD. Reality be damned.

For example, Grits has mentioned press on the low conviction rate for DUI's. This is partly because APD fails to gather ANY evidence much of the time.

But those that are arrested (evidence or not) will do some time, pay a lot of fees, and be treated as guilty until their court date.

How did we get so far from innocent until proven guilty, and why is this always such a small issue to the legal system?