Monday, July 09, 2018

Critique of bail reform and public safety ignores best evidence

An odd editorial last month on the TribTalk site by Stacie Rumenap, identified as President of Stop Child Predators, titled, "Bail reform: A slap in the face to victims and survivors," deserves Grits' readers attention as an example of fallacious anti-bail reform arguments.

The whole article is premised on conflating violent sexual predators with the masses of low-level folk who cycle through the average county jail on everything from marijuana possession to driving with an invalid license. For example, she writes:
it’s my job to educate families on sexual assault prevention and to stem the tide of dangerous trends that allow predators to roam our streets and commit such grotesque crimes in the first place. 
That’s why I am surprised that proponents of bail reform are calling for changes that will make it easier for criminals to get out of jail and recommit crimes in Texas, a state that has historically remained “tough on crime.”
That "criminals" category cuts a wide swath, capturing rapists and pot-possessors in the same breath. But surely the public interest in detaining those two categories of offenders differs widely? Can we really make no distinction between them?

Rumenap further lamented that  "reformers are not taking into account the impact bail reform will have on victims of sexual assault, especially child victims of sexual assault. The silence has been deafening. Bail reform has resulted in widespread release of defendants without bail and without consequence, raising alarming questions about public safety."

Let's stop right there and say that, no, in fact the exact opposite is true! Public safety is probably the strongest argument for using risk assessments instead of money bail. The best reason to do it is precisely to have less violent crime!

The Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M studied the pool of released defendants in Travis and Tarrant Counties, which use a risk-assessment and money bail system, respectively, over three-and-a-half years to compare outcomes.

During that period, the study found, released defendants in Tarrant County were responsible for 20 percent more crimes committed and 12 percent more serious violent crimes. Here are the details (p. 49):
financial bond is less effective at preventing involvement in criminal activity. The rate of new offending stands at 13.5% in the financial release system, a rate 20% higher than in the risk-informed system (11.1%). Violent offending is also 12% more prevalent where people are released based on ability to pay – 2.7% in Tarrant County compared to 2.4% in Travis County. Of all offenses committed by people on bond, 50% more are violent felonies where release is determined by financial ability (7.5% versus 4.9% in the risk-informed jurisdiction). 
So more crimes were committed by pretrial defendants under the money-bail system, and a much greater proportion of those (50% more!) were violent crimes.

Perhaps most significantly, as Grits has noted before, there were zero murders committed by pretrial defendants under the risk-based system in Travis, compared to ~18 under a money bail system in Tarrant.

In other words, the best, Texas-based research found exactly the opposite of what Ms. Rumenap is claiming.

That's why anyone seriously concerned about public safety in light of these numbers should support risk-based bail reform. There may be other valid arguments against using risk assessments (e.g., they work best as part of a well-developed pretrial services system that doesn't everywhere exist). But the best public-safety arguments are on the side of reformers.

SEE ALSO: Responses on TribTalk to Rumenap's article from the Smart on Crime Coalition and Mary Mergler of Texas Appleseed.


Anonymous said...

But she's worried about sex offenders being released on bond, where are the numbers for crimes committed by them while on pretrial release?

Probably down in the basement with the other sex offender recidivism numbers which are lower than any other category except murderers... But that's none of my business

Anonymous said...

When a bail agent posts a bond for a defendant they are making one promise and one promise ensure that the defendant will show up for court. To make a claim that FREE release through a pretrial program is more effective than financially secured release at getting people to court is disingenuous at best...especially since every legitimate third party study on the subject of pretrial release has shown that release on a financially secured bond is the MOST effective way to ensure appearance and release on a public sector pretrial program is the worse. Right now, bail reform advocates are hanging their hats on computerized risk assessments that claim that they can predict who will show up for court and who will commit a future crime. The truth is that these computer tools are complete junk science and have only been found to perpetuate racial disparities in the system and increase incarceration rate. There is a reason that the federal system which operates without cash has a detention rate of 70%. Without bail, the natural default of the system is much for liberty and freedom, when the government can lock you up without any bail or hope of release.

Additionally, I think it is completely shameful for the author of this site to write a blog criticizing a victim advocate like MS. Rumenap for voicing her concerns about any type of pretrial release program. Ms Rumenap is someone that has devoted her life to victims unlike the author on this site who is merely on a mission to eliminate bail and release unaccountable defendants into the public. Ms Rumenap was not being an advocate for bail, but rather voicing her legitimate concerns that people who are accused of crimes should not be treated like victims. They are not in jail because they are poor or the color of their skin. People are arrested and jailed because of the crimes that they are accused of committing. Ms Rumenap was being critical of these programs that treat the accused with more respect and understanding than the actual crime victim gets treated. Crime victims are the ones that are being ignored in this debate. They are having their rights taken away on a daily basis by criminal justice reform advocates who advocate for money and resources to be taken away from victims and instead given to accused criminals.

Instead of criticizing people like Ms. Rumenap, maybe it makes sense for you to blog about her achievements as an advocate to real victims and people who are undeserved by the criminal justice system...and i am definitely not referring to the accused in this case.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@4:01, you're talking out of both sides of your mouth. Jurisdictions that eliminated money bail saw pretrial detention DECLINE, so more people gain freedom under a risk-assessment system.

Othewrwise, Mrs. Rumenap is spreading misinformation, falsely claiming that public is safer under money bail when the opposite is true. I don't care about her credentials or WHY she is spreading falsehoods, my only purpose here was to correct them with documented facts.

Anonymous said...

4:01 wrote: "Ms Rumenap was not being an advocate for bail, but rather voicing her legitimate concerns that people who are accused of crimes should not be treated like victims."

Please stop. Nothing about shifting from money bail to risk assessments treats defendants "like victims," or vice versa. That makes no sense, on any level! As Grits pointed out, victims are SAFER under a risk-based system.

Anonymous said...


It's a lot more difficult to generate moral outrage about thing if one allows facts and results to enter the picture from any direction. It takes a lot of moral outrage to get people to send enough donations to foundations dedicated to fighting against said moral outrage going, year in and year out.

Someone remind me of her job description? Thought I read it up above, but it is eluding me, somehow...

Steven Michael Seys said...

Is Ms Ruminap one of those "Victim Advocates" who helped turn TDC/TDCJ into the largest prison industrial complex in the world in the 1980s and the 1990s? If so I wonder why her arguments haven't changed over the decades when they've been shown to be false and counter-productive when placed in the real world. When Texas practiced the "lock 'em all up and throw away the key, and monetize them while we got 'em" plan, crime rates continued to soar. When the state was called out for cruel and unusual punishment in the prison system and threatened with Federal government takeover of the prisons, they cried victims' rights were violated when prisoners were coddled by receiving treatment as humane as that required in raising hogs. I haven't seen one benefit for the victims in any of the universal monetization and incarceration policies she endorses.

Anonymous said...

Here's some information about Ms. Rumenap:


Stacie D. Rumenap is President of Stop Child Predators. Rumenap served as SCP's Executive Director for the past three years and brings with her extensive insight and experience into legislative affairs, non-profit management and a dedication to ending the sexual exploitation of children. As president, Rumenap manages the day-to-day operations of SCP and is responsible for developing partnerships and coalitions with similarly motivated organizations; provides guidance and assistance to state and federal lawmakers to bring about legislative change; and leads Internet safety training programs.

Prior to joining SCP, Rumenap served as the Deputy Director for the American Conservative Union (ACU), the nation's oldest and largest conservative grassroots issue-advocacy organization, where she directed the ACU's annual Conservative Political Action Conference and served as one of the group's principle lobbyists. Rumenap has also served as the Executive Director for both U.S. Term Limits and the National Center for Growth, worked on Capitol Hill, and worked on three successful congressional campaigns. Rumenap currently serves on the Boards of Directors of the America's Future Foundation and the Safe Internet Alliance. She is a former board member of the Initiative and Referendum Institute and the Georgia State Society. Rumenap received her M.A. in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University and her B.A. in Journalism from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.


My cynical hunch is that she has buddies who run private prisons, or are involved in the bail bond business.

Anonymous said...

Ms Rumenap’s credentials include “conservative” causes. Speaking as an enlightened conservative on matters of criminal justice reform, I can say with 98% certainty that Ms Rumenap’s views are distinctly Cro-Magnon, if I’m being polite, which is a hop skip and a jump away from Neanderthal.

Personally, I’m sick of uneducated conservatives who trample the constitution with apparently no concern for the consequences or costs. Ms Rumenap’s, sometimes the victims of an alleged crime are the children of a wrongfully acused defendant. The rest of the argument is exactly as Grits has articulated it. It should be noted Grits is a criminal justice reform advocate with a long history of being reasonable. Attacks on his character or motives are strikes against anyone advocating for anything. We need smarter voices not louder ones.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Rumenap comments are not only anti-bail reform, they are anti-factual.

Furthermore, she similarly conflates Child predators with other types of Sexual Offenders [SO]. All child predators are SO; not all SO are child predators. She ignores that SO are grouped into “one size fits all” categories. A SO may be a violent sexual predator or may be a 19-year-old consensually sleeping with a 17-year-old girlfriend. It may even be an 8-year-old whom authorities have placed on the SO Registry.

There has been much research in the field of SO recidivism. e.g. This article references numerous studies conducted by states, by educational institutes, by the DOJ. All conclude that recidivism rates in the studies range from 2%-5%.

The article begins: “[S]ex Offender Recidivism Fact Based Research Statistics show that ‘facts are stubborn things’, refuting the shill, rants and other myths, such as the unsupported ‘frighteningly high recidivism’. We must read this and understand these laws hoping to protect kids are in reality destroying kids and their families.”

Other research in the field shows that approximately 90% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are:

• Known by the family
• Are not on any SO Registry, in other words, they are not out on bail.
Most often,they are first time offenders.

In conclusion, scholarly studies show that Money Bail does not increase Public Safety. In the same manner, repeated scholarly studies in multi-states have shown, and continue to show that SO Registries are ineffective in their original purpose, protecting children.

The courts are looking at the registries; and, in an increasing number of cases, the courts are deciding that SO Registries are an ex Post Facto form of punishment for individuals who have served their time and have paid their debt to society.

Anonymous said...

But a true conservative doesn't believe in neanderthals!

Anonymous said...


I'm very glad you are here to inform everyone that uneducated conservatives are the actual problem. Good thing we have educated progressives holding much the same job as Ms Rumenap, who always think about consequences and costs when advocating for victims.

What would the world do without people like you pointing out that the problem's one of political viewpoint, and not anything else of consequence. With thinking like that leading the way, the only solution that matters is the suppression of those who have the wrong political views. Calling such people "uneducated" is always exactly accurate, because all the educated people disagree with them. If they don't disagree, they ain't educated, QED.

What in the world would we do without people like you providing such wonderful examples of thinking about the consequences and costs of a political stance they are advocating for.

It's such a contrast There's my memory again. Someone please remind me of who it is that 6:56 demonstrates themselves as being the complete opposite, by comparison and WRT showing such commitment to the consequences and costs of their political position. I'm sure that someone was mentioned in the article who is the complete opposite of 6:56's demonstration of commitment to always thinking through the consequences, etc.

Political POV is clearly the root of all evil. Good thing we have people like you around to inform the uneducated that they are uneducated, and that the proof of this fact is that they hold the wrong political views. Nothing bad can come of that, not with people like 6:56 delivering the message, no doubt after they considered and eliminated the possibility that there might be negative consequences to such messages.

Such examples of smarter not louder voices are one of the things that leave me confident that I know which direction our Republic is headed for, in the future. After all, similar voices have been delivering similar messages for decades, and the result such smarter voices is where we are today. The amount of improvement they have brought us over the last 2 - 3 decades is as clear as the amount of benefit a college degree provides to such messages. I mean who else is capable of calling out ad hominems as inappropriate when the target has the right track record, but completely appropriate when the target does not?

Nothing like seeing how such people apply their message about thinking through the implications of the message one delivers. Classic. Maybe if I had acquired a college degree myself, I would have learned to talk like that, too. Then again, such teaching I had to speak in such a way didn't stick, so 4 years of immersion might not have been enough to keep me consistently doing so over the long run, anyway.

Hell, a 4-year degree might not have been enough to convince me that people such as 6:56 would alter their thinking after reading a reply like this one. Prolly need a PhD to have enough education to believe that having an education makes people amenable to criticism of the things they say.

Unfortunately, I'm too uneducated to believe that comments such as the one at issue, or even my own, will do much to change minds. As the old timer said to the greenhorn, I already know the game is rigged, but it's the only game in town.

Anonymous said...

@6:56, I don't agree with Ms. Rumenap on the bail issue, but I feel it necessary to point out that from your post you appear to be as much of the problem as she is. She is only doing what the liberal media does every day. The two of you are likely "two peas in a pod", just from different ends of the political spectrum. Twisting the truth and "trampling the constitution" can come from both sides of the aisle. Wake up my naive @6:56 -- your part of the problem!

Anonymous said...

Ok...if the goal is to release as many people as possible, why not just open the jail doors and let everyone out. pretrial detention. Harris County Texas is just letting people out who claim indigence and 49% of them arent showing up for court. What do you think they are doing when they arent showing up for court? Could they possibly be out committing more crimes? Well doesnt that sound great for public safety. To say that jurisdictions that eliminated money bail saw a decline in pretrial detention is absolutely NOT a true statement. Many of the McArthur Grant sites saw very little if any reduction in pretrial populations. In fact, Charleston, St. Louis and Spokane actually saw increases. I am sure that you will start talking about New Jersey about now...they got rid of bail and their jail populations dropped. What you will probably not mention to your readers is that jail populations were already dropping 15-20% before money bail was eliminated in NJ. Also, why after a year in NJ is there NO data on who showed up for court and who didnt? Because they know the data is miserable. Lastly, if eliminating money bail is such a good idea, why are Kentucky's jails still full...they have the best pretrial programs and risk assessments in the whole country. If eliminating money bail and using risk assessments is so fantastic, why does the federal system (the utopian model for pretrial reform) have a detention rate of close to 70%....yes...70% of people in the federal pretrial system have no chance of pretrial release. That number hasnt been has been increasing gradually over the decades.

Now lets talk about these great "evidenced based" risk assessments. You know...the ones that are now increasing detention rates and increasing racial disparity. The same ones that even Eric Holder said were racist. The same ones that bail reform activists own researcher said were ineffective and racist. There have been countless studies over the past few weeks from legitimate researchers...not PJI paid employees...or ACLU researchers...real academics that are telling the truth about the arnold foundation and their PSA. Here is a link to the latest research paper...

Once again, I will say it again. People are not in jail because they are poor and cant afford a bail bond. They are there because they are accused of a crime...period. Just look at the Los Angeles county jail numbers and you will see that 90% of the people sitting in jail are there on felony charges. 87-88% of them are not even bailable due to various holds (not my number but those from an ACLU funded study by the JFA institute a few years back). less than 2% of the LA County jail population is there on low level misdemeanors. The majority of those people bail out. If there is someone that is truly indigent sitting in ANY jail around the country, the first question that needs to be answered is WHY DOESNT PRETRIAL SERVICES HELP THEM???? They are not a customer of the bail industry if they are indigent. That is the sole job and responsibility of pretrial services. But they fail to service these folks because there are so few of them.

You can say all you want about public safety and the studies you claim to have, but it doesnt take much more than common sense to understand that if you have money on the line and family and friends tied to your pretrial release...and you know that someone will come get you if you violate your release conditions, that you are more likely to show up for court and not commit additional crimes while out than someone who is released for FREE with no supervision and no family involved and no financial incentive to show up. I dont think we need a fancy PJI or TPPC funded study to tells us otherwise.

Anonymous said...

How would you rule?

You have a child from a previous relationship and have custody because of an abusive situation.

This child visits other parent every summer & ect., the child is given everything it wants while visiting.

The child has no bonding with step-parent and step-parent complains behind the child's back to parent constantly. Child wants to live with other parent to get their way and get away.

In the meantime step-parent wants out of relationship and has found somebody else but step-parent & parent have another child. Step- -parent paid for own paternity test. Accusations are made and the caring parent is sent to prison. No evidence, no investigation, no nothing but a DA climbing the ladder to be a Judge.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@4:19, the 49% FTA number is BS. First, Hurricane Harvey disrupted the courts for the months covered by that number. Also, multiple reports demonstrated how the judges were sabotaging the system by not dealing with bail and requiring the Sheriff to release them WITHOUT pretrial services to follow up.

A better example is the Travis vs. Tarrant study. It shows SLIGHTLY worse FTA rates under risk assessments and MORE CRIME committed under money bail, especially violent crime. You pick which you prefer.

You keep repeating this foolishness: "People are not in jail because they are poor and cant afford a bail bond. They are there because they are accused of a crime...period." Except not everyone accused STAYS in jail. That depends on whether they can pay money. To pretend otherwise wastes everyone's time, pick a different hobbyhorse.

Finally, risk assessments may have discriminatory tendencies, but they discriminate LESS than the judges and prosecutors. We discussed the issue at length on the podcast here, if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Grits, There's an obvious problem in the Travis vs. Tarrant study -- they are not the same county! They have different demographics, different personnel making the bail decisions, different crime rates, and different environments into which individuls are released. Second, your argument that crime may rise because "not everyone accused STAYS in jail", depending on whether they can pay money, seems to have an obvious flaw. If a wealthy criminal can get bail by paying money in a money-based system, then why can't the same criminal ultimately pay money to get released in a risk-based system? Our justice system does not indiscriminately refuse to offer bail to arrestees -- they are, after all, "innocent until proven guilty." Sure, it can happen with judicial intervention, but it is NOT the default scenario. what means would a risk-based system continue to hold a likely re-offender who could otherwise bail out of a money-based system? It can't be the amount of bail, because that can be identical in both systems.

Anonymous said...

Harris county pre and post hurricane aren't the same county either for the same reasons. Pick another...

George said...

Ms. Rumenap is one of so many so-called conservative-minded who purport to standing up for the rights of "victims" and who advocate for them to remain "professional victims" for the rest of their lives. There's bodies of research who deem continuously viewing oneself as a victim is not healthy and actually retards recovery.

More likely, she is, in reality, an advocate for the segment of our society who continues to reap profits from the criminal justice system and probably views any type of reform as an attack upon the system that profits from other's misfortunes.

The statistics concerning the recidivism rates for those previously convicted of a sex offense are extremely low but Ms. Rumenap, as Prsident of SCP, and others like her, wish to continue a campaign of fear and misinformation. Crimes should be punished, that's a fact, but not everyone charged and/or convicted of a similar crime has the same risk level of reoffense.

Ms. Rumenap is a parasite who seeks to profit from the pool of people who are involved in the system that deals with crimes, whether real or not. We can do better as a society, much better. It's time to start thinking for ourselves and stop letting others do our thinking, and decision making, for us.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:17, you understand so little about this it's difficult to have a real discussion. E.g., you write, "If a wealthy criminal can get bail by paying money in a money-based system, then why can't the same criminal ultimately pay money to get released in a risk-based system?"

The answer, of course, is that if the decision to detain people is based on their risk rather than ability to pay, high-risk rich people can't buy their way out. That's kind of the point. Some defense lawyers don't like the idea of preventive detention, but you have to understand the concept to even participate in this discussion.

RE: Tarrant and Travis - it's impossible for one county to have operated two separate systems over the same period, so I'm not sure what you expect researchers to do except compare counties operating different systems. If you had to pick two large Texas counties to compare, these were good ones. Plus, the differences were so big and consistent, IMO one CAN and should draw conclusions from it. More crime and violence occurred under the money-bail format.